Austrian Poetry

The Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna


I would like to thank Wolfgang Görtschacher  and David Malcolm for the scrupulous care they have taken over the co-ordination of this supplement of contemporary Austrian poetry and for the time they have spent liaising with the publishers concerned for permissions. Thanks are of course due to them for their help and encouragement. I would also like to express my appreciation to Wolfgang and David for their illuminating introduction, and to all the remaining translators for their commitment to this project. 

(The editor)




Previous Translations

THW20: December 18, 2020 THW19: September 19, 2020
THW 18: May 4, 2020 THW 17: March 18, 2020
THW 16: December 9, 2019 THW15: September 20, 2019
THW 14: June 17, 2019 THW 13 March 20, 2019
THW 12 December 10, 2018 THW 11 September 5, 2018
THW 10: May 21, 2018 THW 9: March 7, 2018
THW 8: December 6, 2017 THW 7: September 10, 2017
xxxxxx THW6: June 3, 2017 THW5: March 7, 2017
THW4: December 6, 2016 THW3: September 1, 2016
THW2: June 1, 2016 THW1: March 1, 2016



AUSTRIAN POETRY 1980-2020 by Wolfgang Görtschacher & David Malcolm

This small selection of Austrian poetry published in the past forty years is the first – to our knowledge – to appear in a UK little magazine, whether in print or online. Our selection is eminently – and unblushingly – subjective; other editors, we are sure, would or could come up with a dozen poets (or more) of their own choosing, completely different and with quite as much claim upon our attention. We, for our part, wished to present authors we were familiar with and the quality of whose work we were personally convinced of. In fact, Wolfgang had met a number of them in his tender youth when they visited his high school in Linz, gave readings and discussed their work with student audiences. Among them were some famous names, including: Ernst Jandl, H. C. Artmann, Peter Turrini, and Peter Henisch the last two being, of course, better known as authors of plays (Turrini) and prose fiction (Henisch). Ilse Aichinger and Erich Fried were obvious choices because we had studied their poetry as academics and spent a considerable amount of time translating it for our own pleasure. Of the poets represented here Friederike Mayröcker is probably the only one whose work is extensively available in English translation. In fact, there has been a Mayröcker boom in the English-speaking world over the past fifteen years or so. The latest – and eleventh – volume, Paloma (translated by Alexander Booth), is due from the New York publishing house A Public Space later this year. This has not prevented us from including some of our translations of her work in the present selection. The decision to do so is not wholly to be explained in terms of our joint immodesty: a good poet cannot be made too well known or translated too often if she (or he) writes in a tongue that is not English. Nor are Austrian poets so pampered with international recognition as to be able to pass up any opportunity of international publication. This is a point we shall return to. For the moment we shall point out (in the same connexion) that a fine bilingual edition of Hans Raimund’s Selected Poems, Auf einem Teppich aus Luft / On a carpet made of air (edition lex liszt) was published by a small Austrian press in 2015. A small Austrian press not, however, having at its disposal a network of international distribution, the volume does not appear to have made the impact it ought to have. It is our firm conviction that Raimund’s work represents an achievement of a very high order and that international recognition for it is long overdue. We hope that the small selection we offer here will serve as a sort of launching pad for more translations to come.

Turning to the manner of our proceeding in the contriving of this selection: we contacted poets active in the area of translation, whose work we admire: we asked the poet Timothy Adès, who specialises in rhymed translations, to contribute his versions of some of H. C. Artmann’s and Robert Schindel’s poems; and we were fortunate in being able to interest Hilary Davies in our project, especially in Peter Turrini. She was so good as to contribute her translations of his love poetry. We were also fortunate in having people contact us. Mark Kanak, the experienced poet-translator of German and Austrian poetry, offered us his renderings of Antonio Fian’s poetry, which, besides being interesting per se, had a quality of the unexpected, Fian being better known for his theatre work and fiction. Kanak increased our sense of his being a valuable acquisition when he additionally offered us his translations of Sophie Reyer’s poems as well as some of Ann Cotton’s poems in English, thereby enriching our project with the work of two representatives of the younger generation of Austrian poets.

Which brings us to particular aspects of the significance of this undertaking. If interested readers set out to find anthologies of contemporary Austrian poetry in English translation, they will find themselves at a loss. In fact, they will have to go back to anthologies of the 1980s published by American presses – and just one published in the UK. Some of these volumes are highly commendable. Beth Bjorklund’s Contemporary Austrian Poetry (Associated University Presses, 1986), Austrian Poetry Today / Österreichische Lyrik heute ( Schocken Books, 1985), a bilingual anthology edited and translated by Milne Holton and Herbert Kuhner, and Adolf Opel’s Anthology of Modern Austrian Literature (Oswald Wolff, 1981) still offer the most comprehensive and interesting representations of Austrian poetry. Vienna Group: Six Major Austrian Poets (Station Hill Press, 1984), edited and translated by Rosmarie Waldrop and Harriet Watts, contains a comprehensive selection from Friederike Mayröcker, Friedrich Achleitner, Konrad Bayer, Ernst Jandl, H. C. Artmann, and Gerhard Rühm. Neither of the books can, in the nature of chronology, offer work of more recent writers; and it is a fact that Austrian poets have gone on emerging and publishing since the mid-80s. But they remain largely unrecognised.

The problem lies in a lack of funding. Interested translators continue to exist as also do publishers; but the readers of modern poetry, particularly in translation, discerning though they are, are not as plentiful as they should be. Publication which cannot survive on slim earnings off a small market needs that extra bit of financial backing. Till this is available the work of current poets from Austria will remain as it is: largely unknown to the English reader. What we need is an institution like the Dutch Foundation for Literature. This admirable body hands out translation grants to both translators and their publishers and has, as a well-deserved result, a thoroughly beneficial influence on the propagation of Dutch writing. This could be the case in Austria too, if those with the authority to decide (and their hands on the purse-strings) could be made to follow the Dutch example. Until such time as they do, international recognition of the quality of Austrian poets writing today will continue to be dependent on the enthusiasm of individual translators for poets they have discovered on their own and who have themselves some individual access to the networks of the publishing industry. Such an instance is well illustrated by the engagement of Karen Leeder, professor of Modern German Literature at the University of Oxford, for Evelyn Schlag’s poetry, which has led so far to two collections published by Carcanet Press. One wishes her all strength to her elbow.

Many, if not most translators, though, lack the persuasive power of Professor Leeder. Worse, in the majority of cases, editors of English-language magazines and publishers, being merely human, try to avoid the trouble and expense of negotiating and paying for translation copyrights and require translators to clear away the problems before offering their works for publication. This is by no means easy. Publishing houses are proud of their authors and pleased when they arouse foreign interest. German and Austrian publishers are, largely speaking, no exception. Unfortunately, their loyal pride in their authors translates itself into demands for high copyright fees, which translators, working in a spirit of enthusiasm, and often not paid themselves, cannot afford to pay. Love’s Labour is lost and the poems remain unpublished; the original poet does not enhance his readership, and the translator is – fatally – discouraged.

As The High Window is an online magazine, many of the publishers concerned were very generous and did not charge a fee, an attitude for which we are very grateful. If we had edited the Austrian poetry supplement for a print magazine, though, we would have had to knock, cap in hand, at the doors of public funding … Well, there is nothing wrong with hoping, is there?

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The Poets

 Erich Fried •  H. C. ArtmannIlse AichingerFriederike Mayröcker •  Ernst JandlElfriede GerstlPeter HenischPeter TurriniRobert SchindelHans RaimundAntonio FianAnn CottenSophie Reyer


The Translators

Timothy AdèsWolfgang GörtschacherHilary DaviesMark Kanak •  David Malcolm



Erich Fried: Eight Poems translated by  Wolfgang Görtschacher & David Malcolm


So many toys at once I’ve never seen before
dolls’ beds and dolls and stuffed animals, dominoes
building blocks and wooden dice, miniature trumpets
pecking hens moved by a weight
slates and crayons, picture books
soldiers, canons, Indians and trains
balls and diabolos and an entire children’s theatre
much of them damaged but they can still be repaired
You could distribute them to hundreds of poor children
In fact they were meant for distribution to children
Carefully confiscated toys
xxxxxxxof children killed at Auschwitz


To tell the truth
can mean: being killed
But never – so they say –
is the whole truth killed

Only people, naked
faces no longer recognizable
or still in their clothes
as if sleeping, not much blood at all

or only ashes
packed in brown cardboard
or half mouldered
in graves later discovered

But almost intact
the truth grows out of those remains
of what’s left
and lives – they say – anew

It’s just she no longer wears the shoes
of its speaker – someone pulled them off –
and not his shirt either
with its red-brown edged holes

and also not stinking
striped prisoner’s trousers
The truth stands around
naked and a little freezing

Wherever she stands
she never really stands quite there again
Something of her stays dead
with all her dead


You have not only counted the days
till we see each other again
but even the hours
though in counting
you were always weak
you say
That makes a deep impression on me

For I count no better than you
and I’ve even
miscalculated by many years
the difference of our ages
though anyway I’m more
than old enough
for you

(after the title of a poem by Paul Fleming, 1609-1640)

for Elisabeth

When I kiss you
it’s not just your mouth
not just your navel
not just your cunt
that I kiss
I also kiss your questions
and your wishes
I kiss your reflections
your doubts
and your courage

your love for me
and your freedom from me
your foot
that has come here
and will go away again
I kiss you
as you are
and as you’ll be
tomorrow and later
and when my time is up


That I can still
speak of luck
doesn’t have to mean
that I still
have it.

But if I
don’t have it anymore
can I really speak
of it?


They say: “Finally
we’ve coped with the past”
or: “You must cope
with the unforgettable”
or: “Political apathy
must be coped with”

So far I haven’t coped
with anything
neither with the fear of the old
nor with the fear of the old new
Just that word “coping”
needs to be coped with


Dear Lord, who are not
in thy goodness
protect me from strange gods
including you

and protect me
from perfect teachers
and from perfect teachings
that can explain everything

Protect me from the illumination
that Great Certainty brings
for it turns those illuminated
into obscurantists

And, please, protect me
from the search for eternal truths
For they are finally
only signposts to petrifaction

Petrifaction is, indeed,
a way to endure
but by far not as enduring
as death is


How the sea changes its colours
where it’s deeper
how the sky darkens over the highest clouds
I have forgotten
How a woman’s cunt looks and how it tastes
and my seed in her cunt
I have forgotten

I only still see
the child from the ghetto
running away
from the clubs of uniformed men
into the cattle wagon
that will bring her to the gas

No, that’s not true
I have forgotten nothing
not the sea
not the blue sky above the airplane
not my lover’s cunt
and not my seed in her

But I see the child
I have never seen
except in a blurred black-and-white photo
among all the unforgotten images and colours
and among all the exciting smells –
no matter if I open my eyes or not

And whenever I see comrades
of the uniformed man
(or those who act as if
they could have been them)
then I see nothing but him
and the cattle wagon
and the child

Erich Fried, Gesammelte Werke, hrsg. von Volker Kaukoreit und Klaus Wagenbach
© 1993 Verlag Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin.

Erich Fried (1921–1988), born on May 6, 1921 in Vienna, was an Austrian-born poet, writer and translator. Born to Jewish parents in Vienna, he fled to London after his father had been murdered by the Gestapo after the Anschluss with Nazi Germany. From 1952 to 1968 he worked as a political commentator for the BBC German Service. He translated works by Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas. His Gesammelte Werke (Collected Works, four volumes, eds. Volker Kaukoreit and Klaus Wagenbach) were published in 1993. Collections in English translation: On Pain of Seeing (transl. Georg Rapp, Rapp and Whiting 1969), 100 Poems without a Country (transl. Stuart Hood and Georg Rapp, 1978 / 1980), and Love Poems (transl. Stuart Hood, 1991).

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H. C. Artmann: Six Poems translated by Timothy Adès


ask me my name
I’ll confess it to you
No place is like me
I’m honey among candies
I’m gilded sugarloaf
actually I’m a bee
honeycomb-form beehive
actually I’m a letter
address postage postmark
I answer you like Noah
a vine a sorcerer
look I shapeshift:
caruso sings about me
as hummingbird turtledove eagle
robinson scolds me
as adder scarab microbe
I’m an island in the universe
I’m the power of proper shares
rhino of the altai the gnu
of the urals the gobi macaque
no mirror projects me
no film displays me
I’m location nowhere


a dark thonet chair on the beach
alonexxxsixty yearsxxxold genuine
edge of the panama hat well
drawn over the shining eyes
various characteristics that
indicate well-read mornings
a japanese lacquer box rather
the silk scarf slipped to the grass
writerly activity is
not necessarily excluded but if it
were schönbergxxxhe who throws
round pebbles at the milk-bottles
with missiles of his music
who then types these sun-loops
and the bright girls’-clothes so
relentlessly into the cool Olympia?


suddenly and strongly where
over the tin roof of the
casbah of erzurum the
suns climb warm with
paws thought valueless
on to golden tohuwabohu
of roses and feathers the
soundtrack of a film
from then cardamom too
washes my hearing again
certain things become clear
to me like summer greetings
held up in the post
i look at the clock
and notice a nightingale
surrounds my illegal
red fez the sierras are menaced
by a brightly-honed beak
the speech pistol heeds
the poet’s green mat


the kismet pictures are so sticky
don’t touch me i am
plagued with all too fate
if i grow old I’ll breathe
springtime a mountain-star
falls into the rocks
i look for it with my
swan-goose with dove-ducks
i stride under the sun-tent
i find also that city and
its young cactus-herds
but for the atlas its bear
the pepper-fern-eater
i don’t often manage to grasp


malmö i love your light
which isn’t blown off
like spiderwebs on the store
not so easily blown away
like blossom from apple-trees
when the sea-wind joins in
or whistling tea-kettles


hard ice-screens
indigo-grained in front of us
toronto or bologna?
as if the snow-wind
gripped missy’s eiderdown
under the oxters!
this dust swirl in modena
these nebulous adverts
this february from the lake
verdi perceives stars here
in day-tunnels under zero
applauding orreries
from which we learn
what wise train-drivers
think in tight electro-cabs

H. C. Artmann, Sämtliche Gedichte, hrsg Klaus Reichert
© 2003 Jung und Jung, Salzburg, Wien.

Hans Carl (H. C.) Artmann (1921-2000) was born on June 12, 1921 in Vienna. In 1952/1953 he founded the so-called “Wiener Gruppe” (with Friedrich Achleitner, Konrad Bayer, Gerhard Rühm, Ingrid Wiener and Oswald Wiener), a small group of avant-garde Austrian poets. He became very popular for his early poems written in Viennese dialect (med ana schwoazzn dintn, 1958). Among his many volumes of poetry, fiction and plays, the most famous are How much, Schatzi? (1971), Aus meiner Botanisiertrommel (1975), Gedichte über die Liebe und über die Lasterhaftigkeit (1975), and Im Schatten der Burenwurst (1983). Among the main awards he received are an honorary doctorate from the University of Salzburg (1991), the Georg Büchner Prize (1997), and the Grand Gold Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria (2000).

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Ilse Aichinger: Four Poems translated by Wolfgang Görtschacher & David Malcolm


The world is of a material
that claims inspection:
no more eyes
to see the white meadows,
no ears to hear
the birds’ chatter in the branches.
Grandmother, where have the lips gone
to taste the grasses,
and who can draw all heaven’s smell for us,
whose cheeks rub themselves today
sore on the walls in the village?
Is it not a dark forest
we’ve got ourselves into?
No, Grandmother, it’s not dark,
I know, I lived a long time
with the children on the edge,
and anyway it’s no forest.


And if I’d no dreams,
I’d still be no other,
I’d be the same without dreams,
who called me home?


You place no stone for me
to make our old grief more,
give me no light to fear
and no fear, to make it brighter,
and not even the tatter of melancholy
every star demands.
You bustle round your foundling
and I haven’t found
the wax girls yet
that are stiller
than Jesus in his crib,
not yet.


From cut-short stays
to learn silence,
from the dark furniture,
the unused spaces,
from the girls in their white dresses,
pillars of dust that hold up temples,
the doors in the shivering mirror.

Ilse Aichinger, Verschenkter Rat.
© 1991 S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main.

Ilse Aichinger (1921-2016) was an Austrian writer who was noted for her accounts of her persecution by the Nazis because of her Jewish ancestry. She spent her childhood in Linz and Vienna. Aichinger began to study medicine in 1945, working as a writer on the side. In her first novel, Das vierte Tor, she writes of her own experience under Nazism. It marked the first time a woman’s experience in concentration camps was discussed in Austrian literature. After studying for five semesters, Aichinger interrupted her studies in medicine again in 1948 in order to finish her second novel, Die größere Hoffnung. In 1953, she married the German writer Günter Eich. In 1963, Aichinger moved to Großgmain near Salzburg. Her volume of poetry, Verschenkter Rat, was published in 1978. After 1985 Aichinger increasingly retreated from public life. In 1995 she received the Grand Austrian State Prize for Literature and in 2001 the Joseph-Breitbach-Prize, along with W. G. Sebald and Markus Werner.

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Friederike Mayröcker: Eight Poems
translated by Wolfgang Görtschacher & David Malcolm


when I was suddenly two years
in a dark past
when I sleeping was without consciousness
when I was only a few days
when on thin footstilts poling wondering waking
when on mother’s hand
when on mother’s and father’s hands
thus between them
between them in between in between
thus their focal point
but I don’t remember
when I a wee one
so still not alarmed so still not embedded
both of them their centre point star
on whom their eye
from whom they could receive
their happiness

for my father

I don’t know
why but suddenly
between Lastenstrasse and the Ring
it came over me again:
I wanted
to meet you once more –
coming towards me looked
like you, I sought
further signs, the white and blue
down jacket, the sharp
circle in the ice, in a photo booth
there was a flash, the moon
grew paler, moved
to the zenith, the
jackdaws circled and called, it smelled
of roast apples, something
bounced in my head, the
eyes burned, in the bright
corner of the crown of the wall
your limbs covered
with ivy, your upward stretching
blackened hand . .

for Liesl Ujvary

amongst friends
at the restaurant table beside her, my
hand falls in farewell into her
lap onto her intertwined
hands, she glances
surprised and confused
downwards, upwards
floral . .

plough the street, multi-
layered concept –

for Siegfried J. Schmidt

coloured cheek to cheek
in the wild branches the deep red
apples violet
giant hogweeds at the burning
field edge the phlox throws
shadows between lobelia
white butterflies in the white-skinned
the cottager’s child:
tree-top weightless in the branches heart
of a bird

in memory of Hans Ulrich Munke

the moonrose
hangs in the night
Amaryllis Mattholia
: a lit-up clock tower I
release the focus –
so the keyboard blurs, while
I keep on waiting
for a sign from him, who’s been dead for three days.
His picture of ecstasy behind the wall, I miss
the death experience. Wildly
suppurating forest bareness, I await
his voice, instead
the news of his death
on the phone.
Painful dreams, it was
so damp everything everywhere
the grass sprouted through the white
table cloths, or
how do you say


your eyes’ll stick that way,
mother said, when I tried
a squinting glance, the
scrunched up eyes.
Rocking-horse kitchen door:
till the door handle tore off,
the door broke off its hinges


The breath we have
exchanged the naked
souls –

and still you say
“your Indian hair …”


a hawk’s
head in my way
bends down
and talks to me
I look in his
face for shared
early flights

Friederike Mayröcker, Gesammelte Gedichte, hrsg von Marcel Beyer
© 2019 Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin.

Friederike Mayröcker (1924-2021).  From 1946 to 1969 she was an English teacher at several public schools in Vienna. In 1946, she meet Otto Basil who published some of her first works in his avant-garde journal Plan. Mayröcker’s poems were published a few years later by the renowned literary critic Hans Weigel. She was eventually introduced to the Wiener Gruppe, a group of mostly surrealist and expressionist Austrian authors.  She lived with Ernst Jandl from 1954 until his death in 2000.  Klaus Reichert edited her Gesammelte Prosa 1949-2001 (Collected Prose, 5 volumes, 2001). Marcel Beyer was responsible for her Gesammelte Gedichte 1939-2003 (Collected Poems, 2005). Among the many awards she has received are the Grand Austrian State Prize for Literature (1982), the Georg Büchner Prize (2001), the Bremen Literature Prize (2011), and the Austrian Book Prize (2016). She died on 4 June 2021 in Vienna.

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Ernst Jandl: Four Poems translated by Wolfgang Görtschacher & David Malcolm


sometimes when i think of my father
(and i think sometimes of my father)
i feel almost irresistibly the impulse to scold him
but right away i feel in the fingers
of the right hand (why especially the right?)
his warm round head under the thin hair
that right to the end was blond (or not?)
and we go at midday
down the auhofstraße to a restaurant
that promises not to be so bad;
and i say be my guest
choose the best
« . . . » i read the menu, at least the dearest.
Then I treat him
like sometime around this time
sándor weöres, the galant poet from budapest, with me
sándor weöres, my esteemed guest
who chooses the spaghetti from the menu
whereupon i protest so long and forcibly
that he opts for the most expensive cut of meat,
whereupon both, sándor weöres and my father
endured a hard chewing spell,
put bite for bite on the plate’s edge
since it was only recently doctor lill had implanted
old age’s wisdom teeth in my mouth
long after the guest’s hearing had unknowingly,
but not innocently, insulted
the guest


if you want to know why
i have to tell you that as a teacher
i don’t want to completely alienate myself
from my pupils’ experiences; also
since meanwhile i’ve turned sixty. of course,
mixed classes, but the American
petting system is not known here.
they masturbate, each for themselves, of that
i’m firmly convinced, and they pick up
along the way, at religious instruction,
a pronounced sense of guilt, which
for every sort of sexuality practiced
we must demand. then later, insofar as
they don’t go in for an academic
or even an artistic career
they’ll get plenty of practice
in copulation and perceive .
the world’s ugliness early enough
in their glands and their progeny, while
i hope to be long strangled by then,
an enchanting demise.


and what will you say then?
farewell you who live on. . . .
that is, if anyone’s with me
perhaps i’ll say that


i’m done.
done with poems besides this one
insofar as this bit of writing can be considered
a poem and what is more a finished poem.
it’s a poem of interchangeable names
and of interchangeable numbers.
of course i’ve just turned seventy,
which i rather think of as unnatural,
although it proceeded naturally,
that is in the course of what they call getting old.
for about ten months I’ll be rushing on ahead of you.
i still see the shocked look
of thomas king whom i so admire
after his most recent reading in vienna;
“you’re using a stick,” this sentence
accompanied or underlined his look.
that he recited certain passages in his poems
entirely unvoiced almost wore me out.
(honestly, this possibility never occurred to me.)
other stuff wears me out
and i confess to you, dear franz mon, that i’m
done, and not just with poems like
this one here.

Ernst Jandl, Werke, hrsg. von Klaus Siblewski
© 2016 Luchterhand Literaturverlag, München, in der Penguin Random House Verlagsgruppe GmbH

Ernst Jandl (1925-2000) was born on August 1, 1925, in Vienna. He studied German and English, wrote his PhD thesis on the short stories of Arthur Schnitzler, and worked as a teacher until 1979. He was the life partner of Friederike Mayröcker. He and Mayröcker had an intimate friendship that started in the mid-1950s and they collaborated many times on literary works. He was well known for his experimental poetry, mainly sound poems in the tradition of concrete and visual poetic forms. He translated Gertrude Stein, Robert Creeley’s The Island, and John Cage’s Silence. Bob Cobbing published Jandl’s mai hart lieb zapfen eibe hold in 1965 under his Writers Forum imprint. Also in 1965 the LP Bob Cobbing / Ernst Jandl – Sound Poems / Sprechgedichte was released. Jandl received the Georg Büchner Prize and the Grand Austrian State Prize for Literature (both in 1984), among many others.

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Elfriede Gerstl: Eight Poems translated by Wolfgang Görtschacher & David Malcolm


my jewishness I inherited
xxxxxxi don’t know how
if i’d opened my eyes
xxxxxxa Waldviertler
xxxxxxxxxxxxin Waldviertel
i’d have had to spoon grits all my life
get myself a Waldviertel man
xxxxxxdumpling-eating children
xxxxxxxxxxxxunder local trees
(according to Göpfritz custom)
that something’s been that way for so long or so
that’s a reason finally
xxxxxxto try something else
the fear of leaving tradition
is the fear of disappearing
if someone wants to sit there in the reserve
and be a spectacle
xxxxxxfor history-hungry tourists
they should
if someone wants to wall themselves in
xxxxxxxxxxxxthey should
i like walking in the open


in my old man’s house
they spoke a lot about money
gambling debts
xxxxxxfor maids
not about world issues
my mum’s head swum
xxxxxxwith fancy presents
clothes furs well fitted hats
heads didn’t need
but the thing for heating
the curling irons
xxxxxxfor mum’s hairdo


after tomato soup
beef soup
onion soup
sucralfate is recommended
red wine
bring headaches
require panadol
no eggs
for fear of salmonella
fish names call up {}
xxxxxxfish-bone phobia
no meat
because: well you never know
the sweets are too sweet
xxxxxxand often contain
xxxxxxxxxallergenic bits of nut
and heavy costly wine
gives you those jolly
xxxxxxitchy spots
claritin should (counter)
so the usual please
a glass of wine on tap
and a bun


to think out a poem
feel it through
not write it down

if written down
hide it
from discovery

whatever wants to sell
must swagger & be seen & be compared
in this whore’s market

you only keep for sure
what you chuck out

alas shared food
(but what can you do)

the 1990s


how did those poor people
xxxxxxkant and hegel
write their books
xxxxxxxxxxxwithout computers
old goethe could have used one
xxxxxxwith all that productivity
he could have emailed his friends
that eckermann guy would’ve had a mobile
and there’d be much less bumpf around
invented too late
nothing to be done


i’m too old to eat bad food
i’m too old to drink awful wine
i’m too old to read something stupid
i’m too old to meet unpleasant people
i’m too old to let myself be hurt
i’m too old to still be pessimistic
i’m too old to be unhappy with my life
to promise the reliable
time’s come up
as something consoling
away with the shit bucket of negative emotions
just let more in
that brightens the day


i fatigue
xxxxxxam mistress of the limbs
when i want i let them go
xxxxxxor force them down
weakness is my partner
xxxxxxwe work well together
sometimes pain is
xxxxxxone of the players
we don’t need him
our will is done

for Herbert

soon I’ll get into the shower
soon I’ll make the tea
maybe first bring in the paper
maybe take the paper into the loo
better to eat later
teeth later
for once just get up
for once just get out of the dream
for once just get out of the room
i hope no one’s phoned
i listen right into the machine
i hope no one phones
soon i’ll get up
and get into the shower

Elfriede Gerstl, Werke, hrsg. von Christa Gürtler und Martin Wedl
© 2017 Droschl Literaturverlag, Graz.

Elfriede Gerstl (1932–2009), born on June 16, 1932, in Vienna. She survived the war years by hiding in various locations with her mother. In 1963 Gerstl moved to West Berlin, where she received a scholarship from the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin. While living in Berlin, in 1968–69, she wrote the novel Spielräume, which was not published until 1977. She remained in Berlin until 1972, when she returned to Vienna. Her Collected Works are available in four volumes (2012-2015). In 1999 she received the Erich Fried Prize and the Georg Trakl Poetry Award.

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Peter Henisch: Two Poems translated by Wolfgang Görtschacher & David Malcolm


RETURNING from where it’s warmer
I find this country here
mostly too cold

I feel
a harder beating
in my breast
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxI don’t know
xxxxxxxacross the border
the people seem old
and have forgotten
to speak to one another
in this language
that is also mine
no one looks
at anyone
So I can
only be at home in hiding
In this language

THIS is a beautiful country
you’ve built

says Harry
with whom I’ve come from the south
he says it
though customs
strip-searched him

Yes I say
it’s a beautiful country
you’re right

that we’ve built it that we
could be proud of it or
have to be ashamed
for what was there &
will be

(On the poisoned
trees all along the street
grow poisonous
sayings What
do they mean by that)
I don’t want to know
at least
not now
just arrived
and turn up the radio loud

They’re playing Mozart

for me except be underway as long as
I haven’t got there yet

Through my fleeting
mirror image
I see the countryside the trees
stand budding
but still bare
It’s March it’s evening So familiar
lit so
sadly cheering
we’re travelling towards
night I stand outside
under the viaduct
a child that sees us
Soon we’re gone

where is that
4 walls
the door
the window
the table
the bed
this desk
this type-
writer I’m
used to my heart
feels no
my whole
body i.e.
my soul
my brain
my hands
write behind
the window
a pale
is it
the moon



The shadow of the fence
lies exactly
in the middle of the path
The bells of the monastery
The dogs
Two men
walk by
in a foreign
Two women
cast local
The siren
of crows
rise up
from the field
like black


is written on the wall
of the kindergarten They’ve
washed the slogan off
but it keeps coming

From the kindergarten
to the care home
the path (a path of learning) goes
gently uphill
but in time
you get quite out of breath


In the scouting hostel

housed refugees
The priest

does something
for the needy
All that you do for those

Jesus said
you do for me
But of course the terrace

over which
this slogan hangs
they’ve decided to have it

walled up
By all that is right and fair
it’s better

people don’t
see the foreigners
just sitting here

just sitting here
and with their brown

looking into our
green neighbourhood
as though

as though
they belonged here


The sun shines
everything is green & blooming
in front of the house a digger’s at work

It digs a ditch
between us
and the world

The cables
that used to run aboveground
will now run underground

People are productive here
they’re always having ideas
there’s no standing still here

Still what’s that
it’d terrify any decent

That e.g. you just hear bird calls
if you open the window
in the direction of the walnut tree –

just the buzz of bumble-bees and honey-bees
if you go out the door
under the golden rain –

there’s no question of that
What would become of us?
Where do you think we are?


Under the poplars
here & there
walking and reading

the mouse in the grass
and the buzzard in the sky

Hearing: How loud the stubble field crackles
in the sun How often
the cuckoo calls

Tasting: Raspberries
Feeling: The wind on the skin
The smell of burning

coming from the south
over the hills
there’s no way we’ll
associate that with war

Noting something

Erasing something


down the hill
and say
what you see

You see
the far
flowing of the fields

Of course you’ve got to look away
from the highway down there

You mustn’t
about the many
flattened animals
about the people
in their single cells
racing over the land

Don’t pay any attention either
to the plastics factory

It’s true we’ve
stuck it in the neighborhood
without much thought
but what do you expect
we’re not living in a paradise
that’s 20 jobs there

Through the forest
they’re going to dig a tunnel
we’ll scarcely
notice anything

They’ll tunnel in
from one side
and come out
the other
everything will go still faster
past us


The wind
in the leaves
the leaves
in the wind

In the middle
of the meadow
there still stands
the tree
still stands there
in the middle
of the meadow

Peter Henisch, Figurenwerfen
© 2003 Residenz Verlag, Salzburg, Wien.

Peter Henisch, born in 1943 in Vienna, studied German Literature, Philosophy, History, and Psychology. He was one of the founders, the songwriter and singer of the band “Wiener Fleisch und Blut” (1975). He was also one of the founders of the literary magazine Wespennest. He lives in Vienna, Lower Austria, and in Tuscany. He is best known for his novels Die kleine Figur meines Vaters (1975/1987), Die schwangere Madonna (2005) and Eine sehr kleine Frau (2007), the last two were shortlisted for the German Book Prize. Among the awards he has received are the Anton Wildgans Prize and the Literature Prize of the City of Vienna.

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Peter Turrini: Seven Poems from In the Name of Love translated Hilary Davies


In the name of love
we give away our heart.
I am bleeding to death.

In the name of love
we catch our breath.
I am fighting for air.

In the name of love
we write someone else’s name
instead of our own.


There’s a fire
on the edge of the horizon.
I notify every fire engine
in the area
and hurry with them
to the scene of the blaze.
But no house is burning.
No barn, no hayrick.
Instead, there you stand.
You point to your burning heart
and urge me
to set fire to my own.
After all, you say,
you’ve brought enough
fire engines with you.


One look at you
and I see
so much beauty
so much shyness
so much vivacity
so much courage.

What on earth else will I see
if I risk taking
another look?


In the café
you give me
your ideas
about love:
the most important thing
is to be honest
and true.
I am ready
to take your ideas
on board
as long as your knee
never stops
touching mine.


I will set
my fingers
at the borders
of your body.

I will plant
my voice
behind the lattice
of your teeth.

I will sow
my breath
before the thicket
of your sex.

all this
will be
our prodigal


How many times
has the profundity
of an embrace
been wonderfully

It puts me in mind
of diving.

I dive
into the depths
of your eyes
and abide there
I have never run
out of air


When you give me a call
the telephone rings.
The lamp rings.
The cooker rings.
The room rings.
The view from my window rings.

The bells ring everywhere
because I am freed from waiting.

Peter Turrini, Im Namen der Liebe, hrsg von Silke Hassler
© 2005 Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin.

Peter Turrini was born on September 26, 1944, in Wolfsberg in Carinthia. He is a very prolific Austrian playwright known for his socio-critical work and earlier folk-dramas. In the early 1970s he became well known for his first plays Rozznjogd (1971) and Sauschlachten (1972). Among his most recent plays are Gemeinsam ist Alzheimer schöner and Tod, Beisetzung und Verklärung des Claus Peymann (both 2020). He has received the Gerhart Hauptmann Prize (1981), the Golden Romy TV Award (2001), the Würth Prize for European Literature (2008), and an honorary doctorate of the University of Klagenfurt (2010). He lives in Vienna and Retz, Lower Austria.

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Robert Schindel: Three Poems translated by Timothy Adès


My dead men can sinter
my wounds don’t look new
Though pains overwinter
Scars are up for review

Flying leap into pain
No magic it brings
The yell they yelled then
Echoes only in things

So word follows word
Informing of hurt
Like a spurting retort

My dead men less visible
The bark may be possible
To find as I syllable


I’m poleaxed by sleeping
So tired that I’m weeping
Stuck here in these stones
I won’t be escaping

Through my nostrils a thought
Presses close to my brain
It fades as it’s brought
To the hem of my dream

What’s my game in the earth?
With sliced earthworms speaking
As if they had worth
Like all things’ Deep-Being

Dawn clatters, and upward
The sun is my driver
I cling to my thought
Not never nor neither


It’s May: the solar ball descends well-rounded
upon the city of Lwow-Lviv
and I am safe, by no upheaval wounded,
breathe deeply in the Switcafé, and live.

It’s always been quite dark in Red Ruthenia
I bask in Lemberg under sunny sky
the Current Mindset’s cured of that old mania
suddenly cured for all eternity

And not. And yet, big yet you can’t ignore,
and yet this town in present-day Galicia
untouched by maelstrom gales of Nevermore
lives in the Now, not sidetracked by the Future.

So in the Switcafé I stretch and steer
in Present Tense towards the solar ball
but on the shadow-stone I lay my ear
to roaring seas of blood that swirl and squall

Robert Schindel was born on April 4, 1944, in Bad Hall, Upper Austria to Jewish communist parents. He became one of the founders of the student movement “Kommune Wien”, based on the Berlin model, and the literary magazine Hundsblume. He is a member of the Freie Akademie der Künste in Hamburg and the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung. He founded the first state literary institution in Austria to promote creative writing and has been teaching there as a university lecturer at the Institute for Linguistic Art at the University of Applied Arts Vienna since 2009. Among his best known publications are the novel Gebürtig (1992), a volume of love poems, Zwischen dir und mir wächst tief das Paradies (2003), Kassandra (a novel, 1979/2004), and Fremd bei mir selbst (poems, 2004). He has received the Erich Fried Prize (1993) and the Heinrich Mann Prize (2015), among many others.

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Hans Raimund: Six Poems translated by Wolfgang Görtschacher & David Malcolm


I thread
the light
through the eye’s eye

I pierce
the darkness
with pupil needles

I hem
the day
with eyelash fringes.

I sew
in the night

I insert
in life

fits me
like a glove


Your breath streams
out of my mouth
From your wounds
my blood runs

I go to seed
in your fields
Through my hills
you cut tunnels

I’m the foehn
that melts your tongue
You’re the bora
that freezes my lips

Your ancestral East!
My dream East!
In between the needle
in the compass quivers


The bottle
has the cork stuck in its neck
Only force can help now
Beware! Take care! Keep
a cool head! Breathe deep
(today no one crosses themselves anymore)
Wrap up all your strength and will
in arm and eye
search pupil with pupil
and hit the neck
promptly precisely
on the edge of the table


No shards
No splinters
Under fingertips
the smooth break
Under the table
the neck where the cork’s stuck
In your fists the bottle’s torso
Not a drop spilled
Glasses now rim to rim
filled to the brim
toast tinkle and tilt

A cause for celebration


Embroidery cranes fly
on your dress
among tendrils that lay
bent for ages

The girl who once
smoothed the rucks
settled the collar’s lace
round the neck

is long gone
But her scent is still strong
in the sewn-in shoulder pads

The dress-story comes
with her scent that with yours
runs into one


Jandl Ernst
a ciggy
on his bottom lip he
his glasses’ stare
so populaire
looking into things like
Jacques Prévert

Hans Raimund was born on April 5, 1945, in Petzelsdorf, Austria. A gifted translator as well as writer, Raimund received the Austrian W. H. Auden Translation Prize in 1992 for his translations of English (Anne Beresford, Michael Hamburger), Italian and French poetry. He was awarded Austria’s prestigious Georg Trakl Prize in 1994 and received the  Anton Wildgans Prize in 2004. Robert Dassanowsky published a volume of his poems in English translation as Verses of a Marriage (1998). Among his most recent publications are Auf einem Teppich aus Luft. On a Carpet Made of Air (2014) and Neigungen (2019).

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Antonio Fian: Three Poems translated by Mark Kanak


only silence silence only and
never ever magic flute and never ever
car screech and child and man scream woman screaming screamingman
screamscribbling never ever
never ever lamplight on off on and never ever
television nonsense of assisted living assisted dying advertising snuff
and old-corpse stuff
never ever critique: rose a rose a rose what art

only silence silence
landsvat silent and silent seas
tidal din off
off frost cracking snowflake roaring nature
off elm and beech leaf rustle off
off maybell
never ever jingle-jangle-jingling


Drifting in brines,
whimsically adrift,
moored and anchored,
battered, dented and

Then sun seeps in,
waves breaking,
mischief arouses
the giants
of the mountains.


Just shine once
like the acacia in the Prater,
so yellow so bright in the pale green and brown,
for one, one eye,
that sees this shining,
and now shines itself,
unnoticed by all, so beautifully,
because he, she knows
how long it takes to shine
and whither it leads and that it cannot make a night brighter,
no winter frost-free.
So shine just once,
like the acacia in the Prater,
so yellow so bright,
before twilight
passing away.

Antonio Fian. Mach es wie die Eieruhr
© 2018 Droschl Literaturverlag, Graz.

Antonio Fian, born in 1956 in Klagenfurt, studied economics in Vienna, and has been a freelance writer since 1980. Fian is co-founder of the literary magazine Fettfleck, has published numerous stories, novels, dramolettes and radio plays and regularly writes commentaries on culture and politics in dramolet form in the newspaper Der Standard.  Published works include: Was bisher geschah. Dramolette 1 (1994); Hölle, verlorenes Paradies. Essays (1996); Was seither geschah. Dramolette 2 (1998); Üble Inhalte in niedrigen Formen. Poems (2000); Alarm. Dramolette 3 (2002); Im Schlaf. Erzählungen nach Träumen (2009); Man kann nicht alles wissen. Dramolette V (2011); Das Polykrates-Syndrom (Novel, 2014); Mach es wie die Eieruhr (Poems, 2018).

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Ann Cotten: Four Poems translated by herself


We are bigger than our neighbors more than a head
and have a body worth a thunderstorm, a body
they throw rain after and lightning, big thing. We are
wider than other planets and have more in our minds
than all Venus’ libraries of purple prose
with their references to fatty pork and
xxxxxxxxxxxxx clapping. Please note
xxxxxxxxxxxxx this, tsunami, best of all
xxxxxxxxxxxxx electronic notebooks.
xxxxxxxxxxxxx We have always held
xxxxxxxxxxxxx ourselves apart without
xxxxxxxxxxxxx wanting to; our coat is
xxxxxxxxxxxxx torn from undertow
and wantonness and blank refusal to repair,
we never draw back, never mend
our shoes until we have to. We are carefree.
Please note this, tsunami.
We are arrogant for small reasons and for no
reason will be kind we are melting-fat for beauty
and will love anyone who brings it. We have
never said hello first except when drunk but
will jump from our seats if someone names us
and then look away to keep a countenance
we in truth know nothing about.
Note this, tsunami.
We don’t care to be dead but nothing we see here
seems to force us to stay and many things make us
impress upon ourselves to die young. We want
more and more and more and know it is
impossible and rather ugly. There are feet
in our gumboots; we walk too far alone
until they begin to smell. Of loneliness, tsunami.
I see you waving at me on the horizon all
the time, that’s why I drove them all away.
I want to meet you alone and seek you in all
my lovers, their tongues, their soles, and what comes
from the words I dabble with my tongue into their ear.
Things that are dead by me, things that they won’t want to hear.
Please note all this as you stand before me, tsunami.


Your coming has been a perfected craziness, but rain on snow.
Your beauty is a piece of cake now, for you act like you are mine for these days,
a piece of unknown function held in one’s cupped hand,
but it is important, isn’t it, to see clearly.

You sidle through the city and once or twice in a day your enticing waist
will slip into my hands. You are like a bouquet, now,
you look at me with your huge eyes like panicky flowers,
like water in a bowl awaiting a large number of stems.

I must kiss your eyes quite soon, but I don’t know how.


it goes hinunter over you over your body
never mind, give it the flat hand, oh see,
see, stop your pushing, boys – Boys!
Need you a fucking woman to be still?
We go. It’s snow, “the lovely nothingness of snow”,
it’s cold – the lovely nothingness of fingers –
remember – now – remember now, under the signs,
the light that falls like parrots’ calls
among the leaves. He who leaves, falls
and falls the ancient horizontal fall
that takes your feet and long evades the end –

One glance and all you took
and all I left behind is here again.



Unfold yourself and try
to pin yourself like your own butterfly;
fly and arrest yourself,
slide and invest yourself
a fine but dutiful vector.
But sleep is no lector.
Then you correct yourself, arrest
your halting, stiff abreast
the flow of your soul’s living prose:
when slinging your arm, however,
around another,
his heart beats sharp, and
you know he knows.

If you are everything,
then beyond everything
you are your own collector.

Ann Cotton was born in Iowa in 1982 and grew up in Vienna. She has published in both German and English, with works published by Suhrkamp to date including Fremdwörterbuchsonette (2007), Florida-Räume (2011), Der schaudernde Fächer (2013), and Verbannt! (2016). She not only works in the literary scene, but also in the fields of visual art and theory, and was most recently awarded the Klopstock Prize and the Hugo Ball Prize. She lives in Vienna and Berlin. In April 2021, Ann Cotten received Austria’s prestigious Gert Jonke Prize.

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Sophie Reyer: Ten Poems  translated by Mark Kanak


waving to hibiscus leaves
from inside a dream:

red between bare
vein branches. you’ve regained

the bird’s eye
view. sitting in the

tree’s frame and telling
yourself about the world: fairytales in

winter’s grey. foliage.


the needles are growing
out of my wrists. my
larynx. every yearning turns

into an attitude sooner or later.
castles in the air constructed against the

physicality. the wrinkles
on my forehead are

populated by elves. now i’m
playing stalking with
the moments.


dome morning,
blue. putting the head

in the neck, placing
you in the

rain and
drinking air.


going to the
extended lake

coming to terms
with this

old beginning: move


the stars weave invisible
lines of connection. sleeping through
a childhood. needle
pricks in the firmament. heavens

ablaze, lift your hands. heath
behind the house. singing knows no
inhaling. we are the sown, betting. in
starry garments, we invade the

present: honestly.


plastic bags
we play

sneaking on wings ‘til
we’re blown down we are

blind: sinking, sinking
into this

swarming mass of junk,
puke, paper cups, urine:

blurred silence when
will we ever grow

you ask


you’re dying
a dry death


singing, singing


a childhood is being
mopped up: fish puppet,
baby doll, secret
location wonders. back then
you obeyed. today you want to
be alert. a childhood is
being mopped up.


seeking the mother
eating earth
showering with sand

wash me snow
lay me down to sleep grass
hold me hill


it’s snowing cotton. clouds,
made of paper. you fashion a

sailboat out of your
childhood. send it

on a trip. straight into a
landscape spun from

feathers: the clump
of hills. the forgotten

house of the world.

Sophie Reyer, born in 1984, lives in Vienna. She is a novelist, poet, and radioplay artist.  She has countless publications in literary journals and anthologies. Her output includes over 10 books, including flug (spuren) (2012), Queen of the Biomacht, ehrlich, poems (2019) and 1431, a novel, (2021). She was shortlisted for the Austrian Book Prize 2019 for Mutter brennt. Häuser/Houses with Mark Kanak is forthcoming.

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Timothy Adès is a British rhyming translator-poet with books of Victor Hugo, Robert Desnos, Jean Cassou, and Alfonso Reyes, and awards for his translations of these poets; also a book of Alberto Arvelo Torrealba, and a book of all Shakespeare’s sonnets, rewritten without using letter E. He is on YouTube and and; he ran a bookstall of translated poetry; he is a trustee of Agenda magazine. He is preparing a French translation supplement for the December issue of The High Window.


Hilary Davies read French and German at Oxford and taught both languages for over thirty years. She has published four collections of poetry from Enitharmon: the latest, Exile and the Kingdom, was published in November 2016. From 2012 to 2016 she was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at King’s College, London and in 2018-9 at the British Library. She is a co-contributor to Yves Bonnefoy’s Collected Prose, (Carcanet, 2020).


Wolfgang Görtschacher, Senior Assistant Professor at the University of Salzburg, author of Little Magazine Profiles: The Little Magazines in Great Britain 1939-1993 (1993) and Contemporary Views on the Little Magazine Scene (2000), owner-director of the small press Poetry Salzburg, editor of the little magazine Poetry Salzburg Review, and co-editor of the academic journal Moderne Sprachen. Other publicatiuons: So also ist das / So That’s What It’s Like: Eine zweisprachige Anthologie britischer Gegenwartslyrik (2002), Raw Amber: An Anthology of Contemporary Lithuanian Poetry (2002), The Romantic Imagination: A William Oxley Casebook (2005, both Poetry Salzburg). Wiley Blackwell published A Companion to Contemporary British and Irish Poetry, 1960-2015 (with David Malcolm) in January 2021.


Mark Kanak is a Berlin-based author, translator and radioplay artist. Publications in various magazines and anthologies. Kanak has published several book translations to date, including Aquamarine, Peter Pessl (Twisted Spoon, 2006), On Wing, Robert Gal (Dalkey, 2015), Otto Dix: Letters Vol. 1 (Contra Mundum, 2016), and Last Loosening, Walter Serner (Twisted Spoon, 2020). Kanak writes in German and English, and in 2019 Ritter Verlag published a bilingual edition of his prose text, Tractatus illogico-insanus. 2021 will see the premiere of his radioplay TOLLHAUS with Blixa Bargeld in the lead role.


David Malcolm is a professor of English at SWPS University of Humanities and Social Sciences, Warsaw. He is an organizer of the Between.Pomiędzy Festival of Literature and Theatre, which has been held annually in Sopot since 2010. He co-edited and co-translated Dreams of Fire: 100 Polish Poems, 1970-1989 (Poetry Salzburg, 2004). In 2016 he published his first spy novel, The German Messenger (Crime Wave Press). Wiley Blackwell published A Companion to Contemporary British and Irish Poetry, 1960-2015 (with Wolfgang Görtschacher) in January 2021.


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2 thoughts on “Austrian Poetry

  1. Went through the poems of some poet’s. Found Erich Friend’s “Children’s Toys” most disturbing. The way he concludes his poem aroused comments like “I can’t control my tears” when I translated this poem in to Malayalam language (the language spoken by the people in the state of Kerala in South India) and posted in my facebook page


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