The Hidden Fighters

We retraced our steps though the signs were bad.
At twilight a huge man stood in the road with an axe
and when he saw us he whimpered in terror and plunged into the undergrowth
though we were just two peasants, a child, and a deaf horse.
At night we found our moonlit road
obstructed by wheels: wheels of carts, phaetons,
coaches, surreys, toy horses, all frozen.
So we drifted along by the logging paths
that were sometimes just accident, angles of snow and windbreak.
Sunrise was black because we were so deep,
the rustle of the owls stopped,
we came upon a child’s swing dangling from a branch
and then another and another, a forest of swings.
We found a glass case covered with branches:
it contained an encyclopedia. Then we looked up
and saw the carcasses of butchered deer
lashed to the treetops and painted chalk white
like enormous clumps of snow and we knew
we were in the camp of the partisans
and the silence around us was not ours,
nor was it the silence of fear.

by D. Nurkse

Welcome to the first in a new series of Weekly Poems for the new academic year. It’s a pleasure to begin the series with a publisher new to the Weekly Poem, CB editions. Don’t forget that the Poetry Centre can be ‘liked’ on Facebook and followed on Twitter (@brookespoetry).

‘The Hidden Fighters’ is copyright © D. Nurkse, 1996, 2011. It is reprinted from Voices over Water by permission of CB editions.

D. Nurkse lives in Brooklyn, New York; he has published ten books of poetry and has also written on human rights issues. His parents fled Nazi Europe during World War Two. Voices over Water was shortlisted for the 2011 Forward Prize. The book records the emigration of a woman and her husband from Estonia to Canada in the early 20th century; in the fine detail of their experience it evokes the larger forces to which their lives are subject: war, the unyielding land, famine, silence, and the irreducible strangeness of the bond between them. You can read more about D. Nurkse on the CB editions website, where you can read reviews of his work and some further excerpts from his book.

CB editions publishes no more than six books a year, mainly poetry and short fiction and including work in translation. Since 2008 its poetry titles have twice won the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and have twice been shortlisted for both the Forward Prize and the Forward First Collection Prize. In 2011 CBe put on Free Verse, a one-day book fair for poetry publishers to show their work and sell direct to the public; the event was repeated in September 2012 with over 50 publishers taking part. Find out more about the publisher from the website, where you can also sign up to the CB editions mailing list, or ‘like’ the publisher on Facebook to keep up-to-date with its activities.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.


Inside the books
is quietude –

No echo
of the poet’s landlady’s
the rumble of guns outside Jena –

Inside the very
loudest of words
is quietude –

As though they’d arrived
at a place which we
may never reach –

Even if you
plug your ears:
as though from far away
the siren song
of the blood


Im Inneren der Bücher
ist es still –

Kein Nachhall
vom Gezänk der Hauswirtin
des Dichters
vom Kanonendonner vor Jena –

Im Inneren auch der
schreiendsten Worte
ist es still –

Als wären sie angekommen
wohin wir vielleicht nie
gelangen können –

Auch wenn du dir
die Ohren verstopfst:
wie von fern her
der Sirenengesang
des Blutes

by Ludwig Steinherr

The Weekly Poem will be taking a week’s break now to ready itself for the new term. We hope that you have enjoyed this year’s extended selection, and look forward to sending out an exciting new set of poems to you beginning in the week of 24 September. Many thanks indeed to all our generous publishers for providing us with such rich material. You can find out more about them from our Links page here. And if you have enjoyed the work, do consider supporting them by investing in some of the volumes we have featured. Thanks for reading!

‘INSIDE THE BOOKS…’ is copyright © Ludwig Steinherr, 2010. It is reprinted by permission of Arc Publications from Before the Invention of Paradise by Ludwig Steinherr (Arc Visible Poets Series, Arc Publications 2010).

Ludwig Steinherr was born in Munich in 1962, where he still lives, and studied philosophy at the University of Munich. He is now a freelance writer and lecturer in philosophy at the University of Eichstätt. Steinherr has worked as an essayist, a reviewer, a juror, a translator, and as an editor, co-founding the influential journal Das Gedicht (The Poem) with Anton G. Leitner in 1993. But it is as a poet that he has written his way into the front rank of contemporary German writers, one milestone here being the selection of his poem Legend (Sage) as ‘Gedicht des Jahres’ (‘Poem of the Year’) by the Autoreninitiative Köln in 1987. The present selection is based on the nine collections published in the twenty years after his early debut, Fluganweisung, in 1985. Steinherr’s poems have received a number of awards – including the Leonce-und-Lena-Förderpreis (1993), the Buchpreis des Verbandes Evangelischer Büchereien (1999), and the Hermann-Hesse-Förderpreis (1999) – and have been translated into various languages, including French and Czech. Steinherr was elected a fellow of the Bayerische Akademie der Schönen Künste (Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts) in 2003. You can learn more about Steinherr and read other poems from Before the Invention of Paradise at Arc’s page here. Ludwig Steinherr is reading at the King’s Lynn Poetry Festival on 21 September – find more details about the event here.

The translator of this poem, Richard Dove, was born in Bath in 1954, read Modern Languages at Oxford and taught German and English language and literature at the Universities of Exeter, Regensburg and Wales before moving to Munich in 1987, where he has since worked as a writer and lecturer. His early poems were recently collected in the bilingual volume Aus einem früheren Leben (Lyrikedition 2000, 2003), translated inter alia by Hans Magnus Enzensberger and Reiner Kunze. Since moving to the Federal Republic, he has written his poems very largely in German (Farbfleck auf einem Mondrian-Bild. Gedichte, Edition Thaleia, 2002; Am Fluß der WohlgerücheGedichte, Rimbaud Verlag, 2008; Syrische Skyline. Gedichte, Rimbaud Verlag, 2009) while translating into English.

Since it was founded in 1969, Arc Publications has adhered to its fundamental principles – to introduce the best of new talent to a UK readership, including voices from overseas that would otherwise remain unheard in this country, and to remain at the cutting edge of contemporary poetry. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. As well as its page on Facebook, you can find Arc on Twitter; search for @Arc_Poetry. Visit Arc’s website to join the publisher’s mailing list, and to find full details of all publications and writers. Arc offers a 10% discount on all books purchased from the website (except Collectors’ Corner titles). Postage and packing is free within the UK.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.


There is a way to drop a body atop a hard mattress,
to scrub gentle parts too hard, yank a gown
across withered flesh, to drag a weight smaller
than your own and slam it against a pillow.
There are ways to say the night is long
and there are twenty other beds to check.

There are ways to ignore chapping lips,
not to hear a rasping voice, to avoid the task
of filling a water pitcher. There are ways
to tell them, without using words, that you hate
the job, ways to leave them cold and shivering
and naked. There are ways to leave them alone.

But they had an answer, the ones we cleaned
and dressed and moved and fed and watched
over. On chair, bed, pillow, gown, on sheet,
diaper, floor, and shoe, writ repeatedly
in stinking letters: No, I am not dead.

by Janice N. Harrington

‘Protest’ is copyright © Janice N. Harrington, 2011, and reprinted from her book The Hands of Strangers: Poems from the Nursing Home, published by BOA Editions in 2011.

Notes from BOA Editions:

Janice N. Harrington writes poetry and children’s books. She grew up in Alabama and Nebraska, and both those settings, especially rural Alabama, figure largely in her writing. Her first book of poetry, Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone (2007), won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize from BOA Editions and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. She currently teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The Hands of Strangers portrays the tensions and moments of grace between aged nursing home residents and their healthcare workers.  What does it mean to be a nurses’ aide in a nursing home, the lowest of the low, the typically-female worker who provides physical care for the devalued bodies of the elderly? What is it to live one’s remaining life on a county ward as an indigent elder? You can find out more about the book at BOA’s website here. Read more about Janice N. Harrington’s work and hear her read from it on her website here.

BOA Editions, Ltd., a not-for-profit publisher of poetry and other literary works, fosters readership and appreciation of contemporary literature. By identifying, cultivating, and publishing both new and established poets and selecting authors of unique literary talent, BOA brings high quality literature to the public. Support for this effort comes from the sale of its publications, grant funding, and private donations. In 2011, BOA celebrated its thirty-fifth anniversary. To find out more about BOA Editions, click here. You can also sign up for the publisher’s newsletter here, find and ‘like’ BOA on Facebook, and follow the publisher on Twitter by searching for @boaeditions.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.