Poetry as an Echo-Chamber
22 January 2014
This month sees the publication of German Life and Letters 67, Special Number: Poetry, Poetics and Translation in Anglo-German Relations, edited by Professor Gerrit-Jan Berendse.
This special edition presents selected papers from the lead session of the annual conference of the Association of German Studies in Great Britain and Ireland, hosted by the School in Cardiff in April 2013.
German poetry was discussed in the context of impact and dialogue between British and mainstream European cultures in many different and diverse interrelationships. The contributions include an examination of a variety of approaches to translating poetry; matters of influence and intertextuality; cultural and political connections between English- and German-speaking countries; the status of German exiles in Britain in the 1940s and 1990s; and the art of translating German poetry in an Anglo-German context in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Poetry is viewed here as a fundamental building block in the construction of what Robert Gillett in his essay calls an ‘echo-chamber’ that resonates with a multitude of different, sometimes discordant voices – a platform for the creation of new tones, thoughts and ideas in Europe and beyond. Unlike the poetry of many other countries, German poetry is not regarded simply as a pastime for the more educated. German poets have been voices of social and political conscience, playing a central role in social change or contributing to fundamental protest against dehumanising ideologies: something that cannot be attributed simply to any traditional reverence for ‘Dichter und Denker’. It stems more specifically from their ability to express critique in a language of authenticity.