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This article is taken from PN Review 18, Volume 7 Number 4, March - April 1981.

The Poetry of Peter Huchel Michael Hamburger

PETER HUCHEL's whole working life has been a struggle for continuity and independence, against the strongest pressures from all sides to break the continuity by committing himself to this line or that, this or that political cause or party, this or that literary group or trend. At the cost of producing no more than four books of poems in a working life more than half a century long-at the cost of silence, exile, and a cunning that consisted in avoiding outward commitments so as to remain true to his inward one-he came through, integral and intact, whatever compromises may be imputed to him by his critics in either Germany. Those seeming compromises, too, were outward ones, imposed on him by the need to keep going somehow in the thick of the corporative manias of his time, or by hopes briefly shared with the makers of history, but abandoned as soon as they had proved vain.

Huchel's early poems, written in the twenties and thirties, were celebrations of rural life, markedly regional in imagery and diction. It was their realism, their earthiness and wealth of observed, lived particulars-already combined with religious, mythical and occult overtones or undertones-that set them apart from the general run of post-Romantic 'nature poetry'. Nor, in those poems, was nature ever an alternative to human and social concerns, let alone an escape from civilization and its discontents-as in some of the new nature poetry produced by other German poets in those highly politicized decades. ...

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