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José F. A. Oliver has been hailed as an ‘interpreter of two worlds’ (El Mercurio, Chile). The convergence of his mother tongue (Spanish) and his second language (German) can be felt in his innovative and unconventional approach to the German language. Oliver tests semantic and spatial boundaries – he pulls words apart, frees them from their typical usages and imbues them with new and instinctive meanings.

the one who undertakes the swell of the world
in the small boat Solitude / who
undertakes the bundle
the magnolia the tree
in bloom year-inyear-
out in childhoodbloom &
undertakes the woundred
gaping laugh, the voiceless laugh and the eyebrightening
BLOOM. For him
at parting (= part of arriving) a winter
will be tabled
with both hands, free:hand
& the questions
the FEAR piercing
words: There’s someone there!
Someone sitting at the table. Who
is that? Everything an evernothing & no solacegiving
fellow traveller
that one
& could – so sub
versive – at the gravesedge & could
finagle into heaven
by prayer means or foul &
wonder at the falling
earth &
pay the pallbearers
an obolus
(mere manufactories
even the end) & could
lay on hands
like you & let down lower,
lower down what
learning the ropedrop
the low tremor
tremoring lower lower & forever
at the edge
of the conditional
& again the mediterannean
ocean, the mediochre
& no:where a place to trade, unless
in net-thrall
a fishcadaver, a corpse-haul, suddenly
the remote
controlled dance of a fracture
of light / its towrope
coming to wrest
eyes wide
it is
as if I’m waiting &
the waiting is unease &
the unease a waiting
for the word
a nowhere
it is
as if I’m waiting &
the waiting is a nowhere &
a nowhere is the word
& unease only
a nomore
it is
as if I’m waiting &
the waiting is a nomore &
a nomore is nowhere
no word

The sky’s kiss
is ash-bread. Time
ejaculated dust.
Now human & be:ing & earth must
uncollect themselves
like waves, &
drip into the gravemouth:
wounddead. Silence
in the air
that gnaws the
fallen sol
diers / numberless
an onymous trembling. The tracks
disgorge a glut
of bones
that stick in your throat. Natura viva
leaks out, post-mortem
the death hollow of the ear
is stopped up, blinded:
a command per pedes. The tidings
are unrepeatable
let them go unrepeated
they follow suddenlies
in lynch-thrall. Speechless
meetings in the omega.
In the trenches
of the alpha & surer still
in the patrols of lust
the clocks feigning death.
Volcano & warzone & tickets
are kunduzlike
in the explosive sludge of words
messages topple
& drop
& are lost
Poems by José F. A. Oliver
Translated by Romy Fursland
Original poems © Suhrkamp Verlag

J. F. A. Oliver Photo: Uwe Dettmar Suhrkamp Verlag
José F. A. Oliver
was born in 1961 and has enjoyed great critical success since his poetry was first published in 1987. He is especially admired for his experimental approach to the German language, combining Alemannic dialect with the rhythms of Spanish. Oliver hails from Baden-Württemberg and writes about his dual Spanish- German background. His most recent essay collection is called Mein andalusianisches Schwarzwalddorf (Suhrkamp, 2007) and his most recent poetry collection is fahrtenschreiber (Suhrkamp, 2010)

Romy Fursland
has just completed an MA in Literary Translation at the University of East Anglia and is a translator from German and French. Her translations of ten of José F. A. Oliver’s poems were read alongside the originals at the latest event in the Contemporary European Poets 2013 series.