Two German ecopoetry translations


The following two poems, translated by Selina Wyssusek, are from Im Gewitter der Geraden: Deutsche Ökolyrik (Munich, 1981), a collection of German resistance and eco-poetry from 1950–1980. Kunert, who died on 21/9/19, was a well-known East German poet and friend of Bertolt Brecht’s. Tillich was an unknown poet, as are most of the poets in the collection. 

On the Way to Utopia II

Günter Kunert

on the run

from concrete

it goes

just like a fairy-tale:

wherever you turn up

it’s already waiting for you

grey and grave

on the run you may find


a green spot

in the end

and tumble blissfully

into the blades

of coloured glass

we are so certain

Alfred Tillich

we have gotten so used to the fact

that the cold night is followed by new shoots

frozen soils again ignite

and from the furrows of icebound earth

a soft green reaches for the light

we are so certain that an early summer

will paint the open fields in a hundred colours

a warm breeze on hot summer days

rushes through lusty blossoming disorder

to carry together nascent rays

so that, ere the first frosts rise

an ocean of fruit ripens towards us

we have gotten so used to the fact

that we need only stretch out our hands

and they will be filled with grain and wine

without thanking and without thinking

it may not be so another time

we are outraged if one day the waters

sink but sparsely into our fields

and at the close of a barren year

should allow us only meagre yields

we are so certain that every morning

the darkness will be lost in light

and some protecting power

through the twilight is our guide

we are so certain, without understanding

that all things will slip from our hands

and that the treasures of this earth

are lent to us for but a brief span

that they are immensely fragile

and our protection and devoted care invite

lest destroyed along with us and our greed

they fall into a dreadful night


About the translator: Selina Wyssusek lives in Berlin.

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