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This review is taken from PN Review 165, Volume 32 Number 1, September - October 2005.

MANY-TONGUED RICHARD DOVE, Aus einem früheren Leben: Gedichte Englisch/ Deutsch [From an Earlier Life: Poems English/German] (Munich, Lyrikedition) £19.90

In a many-tongued year when a poet whose first language was Hungarian has won an important prize for his poems in English, perhaps we should not be surprised at this bi-lingual edition of Richard Dove's earlier poems, done into German by many distinctive hands, a number of them by the poet himself. For he too has lived between languages, and this selection is testimony to a remarkable literary crossover. The title says a lot, provoking the reader to expect borders, transitions, growth. Already an accomplished poet in his mother tongue, halfway through his life (he is in his early fifties now), he left British academe and settled in Munich. And already deeply familiar with the rhythms and range of reference of German poetry, old and new, he has became steeped in his adopted language and culture, writing his own poetry in German and translating English poets into German and German poets into English, among them Ernst Meister and Michael Krüger (both published by Carcanet). Indeed, the passage from Meister's hermetic mode to Krüger's conversational, but still dense, manner suggests a development in his own work similar to Michael Hamburger's 'from Byzantium to Brixton', as he once put it in a tribute to the elder poet, mentor and prior passenger between the languages.

The move appears to have marked a caesura in his life, and now, in its second half, he has recovered those English poems, added more recent ones, and offered them for translation to his German ...


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