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Ludwig Steinherr

‘Ludwig Steinherr’s poetry impresses with its simplicity and plainspoken qualities. There is nothing in his poems which seems at first sight complex or "difficult” and yet he manages to convey moments of transcendence and glimpses of the essence of situations. There is something almost childlike about his sense of the world: he writes with the uninhibited vision of a child, like a child he sees the tiny detail which unlocks the scene. These are poems which repay careful reading, their apparent flatness is brought to vivid life by snatches of words and brief phrases.’ – Sasha Dugdale, Editor of Modern Poetry in Translation magazine.

A good likeness
There are no
good photos of me:
there’s always something
the lighting the distance
friends look for
in vain –
Only that one
you triggered by chance
while hanging the camera
round your neck
(me slantwise from behind
across the overturning
mountain path plunging
out of the picture) –
but there, in turn,
I’m too much
like myself
for anyone to
recognise me
One fine morning
All these sentences
we use to make
the world inhabitable
for ourselves –
one fine morning
you wake up
and you recognise:
they are nothing
but charlatans –
in black in pointy hats
they throng around your
bed like the
ballet of doctors
in Molière
with their gibberish
of diagnoses
advice –
You though lie there
naked alone
and soaked in sweat
while the mute
of the ceiling
burns down
ever more relentlessly
This poem …
This poem
is superfluous –
Superfluous like
most poems are
and like most things
in general –
If it were at least
a bud
which no one perceived
in the cherry-tree
spilling over with blossoms –
A snowflake
which melted away unremarked
on someone’s sleeve –
But it’s just envy
of snowflake bud
of whatever else
that’s so perfectly
Home video
Old holiday film:
you’re just this moment
leaving the water –
I wind forward
wind back
again and again
The drops
drip down
fly up
into your laughing face –
insatiable moment
ten years
ago now
the way you look at me
don’t see me
On common sense
Because the earth’s flat
a fiery cylinder
a globe
Because there’s only yes and no
Because statistics claim it
Because Kant’s been refuted
Because the medical journal advises
Because the gods call for blood sacrifices
Because there’s no such person as God
Because the racial doctrine proves
Because it can’t go on this way
Because it’s apparent to everybody
Because we have no other resort
The blind man – till something better turns up –
goes tagging after the blind man
tagging after the
blind man
Lost hotel room
No one apart from you
is awake –
only those who
never sleep:
God, that is, and
the Mafia
Rum company
you think
go to the window
and wait
But no light
goes on
the Mafia’s kept mum
for centuries
and God
for whole aeons


Steinherr’s poetry has been jointly published by New Books in German and Modern Poetry in Translation magazine. More of Ludwig Steinherr’s poems, translated by Richard Dove, can be found in the latest issue of MPT.

Ludwig Steinherr Photo: private
Ludwig Steinherr
was born in Munich in 1962. He studied philosophy and earned a PhD for his thesis on Hegel and Quine. He has received various awards, including the prestigious Leonce-und-Lena-Förderpreis, and the Hermann-Hesse-Förderpreis. He has been invited to various internationally acclaimed literary festivals, such as the Journées Littéraires de Mondorf, German- Arabian Poetry Salon in Damascus, as well as the European Literature Night in London, StAnza – Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, and the Birmingham Literature Festival. Recent publications include Das Mädchen Der Maler Ich. Collected Poems (‘The Girl The Painter I’, 2012), Ganz Ohr (All Ears, Lyrikedition 2000, 2012) and Flüstergalerie (‘Whisper Gallery’, 2013). Along with All Ears, Before the Invention of Paradise (Arc Publications, 2010) is also available in English translation.

Richard Dove Photo: private
Richard Dove
was born in Bath in 1954, read Modern Languages at Oxford and taught German and English language and literature at the Universities of Exeter, Regensburg and Wales before moving to Munich in 1987, where he has since worked as a writer and lecturer. His early poems were recently collected in the bilingual volume Aus einem früheren Leben (‘From a Previous Life’, Lyrikedition, 2000, 2003), translated inter alia by Hans Magnus Enzensberger and Reiner Kunze. Since moving to the Federal Republic, he has written his poems largely in German while translating into English. Dove has published versions of poems by Michael Krüger, Ernst Meister and Friederike Mayröcker. His editions include a bilingual collection by Joachim Sartorius, translated by, among others, Robert Gray, Michael Hamburger, Christopher Middleton, Nathaniel Tarn and Rosmarie Waldrop.