—translated from the German by Stuart Friebert with permission of Suhrkamp Verlag/Berlin
—from Rattle #42, Winter 2013
Karl Krolow was by any stretch a giant of twentieth century German Letters. He made his mark early and often, with poems, translations (from the Spanish and French, chiefly; occasionally American), and criticism, later adding prose to his staggering output, which includes a number of Selected Poems (decade by decade), each with a life and mind of its own. Famously saying he didn’t write just for readers, but also for “so-called dead objects, for landscapes, cities, gardens, streetcorners, animals, for the air, the light above a particular object, for the stone and its pores, for sadness, bodily pain …” the list goes on. As a critic, a judge of major literary competitions, he spent much of his life taking account of what his contemporaries were up to. Few writers who lived during Krolow’s time were without his direct or indirect support.
Stuart Friebert: “Initially I came to writing poetry by the long way around: one of the first exchange students to study science and mathematics in Germany after WWII (1949–50), I had the great good fortune to have a sort of humanities course with Karl Langosch, the renowned medievalist-linguist. He challenged me to try my hand at German ‘verses,’ which adventure was capped later by my friendship with Michael Mann (youngest son of Thomas), who helped me line up my first poems, in German. Subsequently, I published four books early on in German, while gradually transitioning to write in English, greatly aided by translating relationships with Karl Krolow and Günter Eich, who taught me more than I’ll ever be able to absorb.”