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This report is taken from PN Review 40, Volume 11 Number 2, November - December 1984.

German Notes Michael Hulse
Among new publications in German poetry in the last two years, two in particular have won critical acclaim: in 1982 Guntram Vesper's Die Illusion des Unglücks (Fischer paperback) and in 1983 Ulla Hahn's Spielende (DVA).

Guntram Vesper (born 1941) grew up in the small Saxon town of Frohburg, moved to the Federal Republic in 1957, and published his first poetry there in the 1960s. British readers were made acquainted with this early work through Michael Hamburger's Carcanet anthology. Vesper has published prose too, and in 1980 returned to poetry with Die Illusion des Unglücks (Hanser) and Nordwestpassage. Ein Poem. (edition sudelblatt): the contents of both of these volumes are fully included in the Fischer paperback.

'Endlich' ('At last'), the closing poem of the book's title sequence, gives a typical glimpse of Vesper's method:


You know of my perpetual fear
of dying in a hotel fire
and know of the long coiled rope
in our travelling bag.
What possessed me to
admit right away 227 of the 238
mistakes and blunders I was accused of, it
must be a sign of a tiny soul
and to this day
I still have the calendar on which
my pencil marked the black day
when I started calling my stepfather
my friend.


The translation can give little idea of Vesper's thrilling line endings, but his predilection is clear for using a ...


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