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Christine Marendon

Christine Marendon’s poetry might be called eco-poetry, it muses quietly and powerfully on some of the largest issues: the faint line drawn between human existence and the world about us and the process of organic growth and change and how we perceive it. Her landscapes are on the edge of civilisation, where everything is returning to weed and wilderness and her observations on this shifting between two states are deeply metaphysical yet also wondering and open. She writes, ‘I feel myself to be very small when I’m writing these poems’.
– Sasha Dugdale, Editor of Modern Poetry in Translation

Christine Marendon and Ken Cockburn gave a reading for Modern Poetry in Translation at Poetry International at the Southbank Centre in July 2014. More of her poetry can be read on the MPT site.


Heard at night a creature cry, outside
the window: "I need a companion!”,
it howled, by the light of the moon, shabby
plumage, big as a guenon, not that it could
climb. Stumpy wings, like fluffy cloths.
Waddles with its undulating tail, returns. Each
night a commotion: "I need a…”. OK, OK. Come
here, beast. I want to give your goose-flesh a stroke
and a squeeze. And anyhow: choose me. We’ll
travel and write each other the sweetest letters:
"Worthy Apterygian, dear Didu, here in the Moluccas without
you it’s so lonely.” And you: "I’m resting in the shade of
the tambalacoque, cracking nuts. Your Dodo de nausée.” Four
of your kind enough to feed a hundred sailors, blessed Nazarite,
my king of Swan Island, oiseau lyre, hunting you was delightful
and so easy. Not even a pile of ashes left. Let’s sleep
a while. And dream. Once upon a time. The ocean blue.
I still know exactly how the world fetched me.
My head was squashed, turned blue, and forceps
pulled me. There was no milk for me, a mare’s
bite had damaged my mother’s breast.
I slept long. And later thought actually I’d been lucky, give or take the injuries.
What else happened? Unfortunately I can’t say,
I no longer know. My suckling-sleep lasted
a long time. I wished and wished I’d wake up. I am
told I could have dreamed until the
millenium. I feel neither fear nor regret.
The old and the new worlds resemble each other. Here
as there I have the wish to awaken. History is
the stories you’re told. I especially like
the leaves on the trees here. It seems to me as if
that says everything. My will is becoming martial.
Spring’s due soon
Spring’s due soon and, so I
sense it, tugs me like the breeze that
blows this way, claws piercing
flesh and tearing this pale skin un-
used to light, so wounds can close
and something starts to heal again.

Original poems
© Christine Marendon
Translations © Ken Cockburn

Christine Marendon Photo: private
Christine Marendon
(1964–) grew up bilingual (German and Italian), studied Italian in Erlangen and Siena, and graduated in 1999 with a paper on Italian women writers in the nineteenth century. After working as a translator and publicist for some years in her native Bavaria, she now lives in Hamburg where she works with children with special needs. Her poems feature in anthologies including Jahrbuch der Lyrik 2013 (‘Poetry Yearbook 2013’), and she has been widely published in periodicals.

Ken Cockburn Photo: Luke Allan
Ken Cockburn
is a poet, translator, editor and writing tutor based in Edinburgh. His published translations include poems by Thomas Brasch, Christine Marendon, Arne Rautenberg and Thomas Rosenlöcher. Some of these are collected in the book Feathers & Lime (2007). In 2008 he received the Arts Foundation Fellowship for Literary Translation. Recent publications include Ink, with artists in the fields (2011), and Snapdragon, translations of poems by Arne Rautenberg (2012). The Road North, a long poem written with Alec Finlay which transposes Basho’s Oku-no-hosomichi (‘Back Roads to Far Towns’) from seventeenth-century Japan to contemporary Scotland, will be published in autumn 2014. He is currently working (again with Finlay) on there were our own there were the others, a series of installations and commemorative walks at National Trust properties to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.