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This poem is taken from PN Review 110, Volume 22 Number 6, July - August 1996.

Seven Poems (translated from the German by Christopher Middleton) Günter Kunert

Translated by Christopher Middleton

Günter Kunert (b.1929) is one of the most respected poets at work in Germany today. These translations are from poems in his new book, Mein Golenz (Hanser Verlag, 1996). Earlier he was prominent among the temerarious few poets in the Democratic Republic whose work (in his case, since 1948) took to task the socia-political system and scrutinized its inroads into individual sensibility. Kunert left East Berlin in 1979 and has been living since then at Kaisborstel in Schleswig-Holstein. His many books include ten or so collections of poems, two novels, stories, radio-plays, essays, and review-articles. Straight-on and steely gray as much of his writing is, a rich comic vein runs through it, along with a conviction, most sombre in recent work, that ecologically and politically the world is done for. His just-completed autobiography (up to 1979) promises to be something of a bombshell - it will appear in 1997.


Fragment
Every life a fragment,
requires a deal of work. These
suspended enterprises. These labours
not undertaken. These defects that persist.
When I consider my person
I see an ant,
it drags a fibre
back and forth and back. You intuit
the magnitude of its readiness
to do its bit, constructing
an exceptional house, but
the rain falls, but
comes overnight a hard freeze
...


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