they find him in a dinner suit of salt
and sand, his passport seaweed, an ensemble
of herring gulls behind him in the drizzle.
he says nothing, but lets the surging felt-
surf caper through the piano case
to grand surprise. The heavy epaulettes
of hands weigh on his shoulders: this
is his hour of fame, a time of tablets,
Autumn nights with nurses floating
like icebergs through the wards. In the clinic
garden the last leaves flutter
beneath the walls. From an old cabin,
where ivy rises, drifts the muted tinkle
of a piano. Some believe it is Chopin.
by Jan Wagner
translated by Iain Galbraith
On Friday 23 October, poets Sarah Corbett and Eleanor Rees will be visiting Oxford to read from their exciting new books in an event organized by the Poetry Centre. It will take place at the Albion Beatnik Bookshop in Jericho, and all are very welcome! More details can be found via Facebook.
Jan Wagner studied English in Hamburg, Dublin and Berlin, where he has lived since 1995. A poet, essayist and translator of British and American poetry by Charles Simic, Simon Armitage, Matthew Sweeney, and Robin Robertson, he was also, until 2003, co-publisher of The Outside of the Element, a boxed loose-leaf periodical based on an idea by Marcel Duchamp. He has published six volumes of poetry and has received numerous awards, including the Mondsee Poetry Award (2004), the Ernst Meister Prize for Poetry (2005), the Wilhelm Lehmann Prize (2009) and the Friedrich Hölderlin Prize (2011).
In Self-Portrait with a Swarm of Bees, Wagner is a vigilant, yet playful, chronicler of the quotidian, his meticulous handling of image and sound forging a worldly, almost luminous palpability. Intensely curious, constantly attentive to novel or unanticipated possibilities afforded by traditional forms, Wagner’s poems celebrate what he has called ‘our steaming, glowing, odorous, noisy world’.
You can read a review of the collection by one of the Poetry Centre’s own interns, Inigo Purcell, on the Poetry Centre website.
Iain Galbraith is a prolific translator of German and Austrian poetry, while his own poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals. A winner of the prestigious John Dryden Translation Prize, and editor of five anthologies of poetry, his recent translated books include a selection of W.G. Sebald’s poetry, Across the Land and the Water (2011). He is also a widely performed translator of British and Irish drama into German.
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