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Nora Gomringer

Nora Gomringer is one of the finest poets and spoken-word performers in the German language, and this year was awarded the prestigious Ingeborg Bachmann Prize. To celebrate that award, we are pleased to present a selection of her poems in English translation. The first two, translated by Catherine Hales, are from Gomringer’s 2008 collection Klimaforschung, while the final two, translated by Paul-Henri Campbell, are from her most recent publications, Monster Poems (2013) and Morbus (2015).

Poems from Klimaforschung

Translated by Catherine Hales


Mother was always
warning me

With you I’m pulling
a wooden horse
inside my walls

Now Father’s wrestling
with snakes
on the beach


You’ve oxidised
Next to me

You’ve reacted to me
Gone rusty
You say
I lick at your neck
You taste like the

‘Tragedy’ (‘Tragödie’), ‘Love rust’ (‘Liebesrost’) © Verlag Voland & Quist. From: Klimaforschung (2008)


Poems from Monster Poems and Morbus

Translated by Paul-Henri Campbell


Show feet, hands, your flat-foreheaded skull
and let them touch you, even describe you.

With the Aleph for truth and death,
ruach and chaos.

And then make for calm and peace in the neighborhood.
Pull the venomous ones out of the fountains,
bring me the daughters from the beds of their debasers.

I know you are my not-yet-but-soon.

Where you set your foot down, the earth resounds
full of celestial might.
How it depends on that one sign

that lets you be complete or just nearly before that.
My promise:

I will burn you, after everything’s been settled.
(‘tis will never be.)

Thence we shall be potter and pot,
I your maker and you are my prop.


Ever since I can remember
love has been my engine.
Of course, I know an All-Over
that is followed by a Done-With,
but since you’re asking me,

I am love without distinction of person.

I am so utterly real that I am beyond
every doubt.
If my heart ceased to love
my engine will love you.
And if kisses no longer fly,
I will kiss without end.

I am the love of demigods in white.

But I am getting off topic here. You asked,
whether I’d be able to let death happen. And I say:

I am the great automated love-enforcement-machine.
And I smile and trust in Brecht,
who ever so curt as ever so just.
And never smile.

‘…said Rabbi Löw’ and ‘The Heart-Lung Machine Answers’ © Verlag Voland & Quist Dresden. From: Monster Poems (2013) and Morbus (2015)

Nora Gomringer
Jürgen Bauer

Nora Gomringer
was born in 1980 and is a dual Swiss and German citizen. Her writing life has travelled between page-bound-poetry and spoken word performances. Her poetry is centred on the themes of orality and memory and her performances are lively and full of humour. Beyond the page, her words have been well received in musical and theatrical performances together with percussive Jazz legend Baby Sommer as well as others. Since 2010 she has directed the International Artist Residency Künstlerhaus Villa Concordia in Bamberg, Germany. Gomringer is the author of numerous volumes of poetry, most recently Morbus (2015), which offers literary investigations into the experience of illness, fragility, and death.
Catherine Hales
was born in Surrey, England and now lives in Berlin, where she works as a freelance translator. Her poetry and translations have been widely published. Her books include hazard or fall (Shearsman Books, 2010), a bestiary of so[nne] [r]ts (Oystercatcher Press, 2010) and feasible stratagems (Veer Books, 2013), and as translator, Berlin Fresco – Selected Poems of Norbert Hummelt (Shearsman, 2010). Recordings of her reading are available in the Archive of the Now, and her poems have been translated into German and Czech. Hales was co-ordinator of the Berlin Poetry Hearings festival.

Paul-Henri Campbell
was born in 1982 in Boston, USA. He studied Classical Greek and Roman Catholic Theology. Poet and translator, he is also editor of DAS GEDICHT Chapbook. GERMAN POETRY NOW, an anthology that presents contemporary German poetry to an international Englishspeaking audience.