‘Sand not Oil’: Transreading Modern Poetry in German

‘Sand not Oil’: Transreading Modern Poetry in German

Explore the dynamic world of modern and contemporary poetry in German as inspiration for new poems, translations and projects of your own.

The course will focus on the period after the Second World War and the rebirth of German poetry out of the rubble. Students will be introduced to key post-Holocaust writers like Paul Celan, Nelly Sachs, and Hilde Domin and their battle against silence, alongside the ways poetry has engaged with political reality after the War, with a poet like Günter Eich for whom poetry should ‘be sand, not oil, in the machinery of the world’ and with East German writers Kurt Drawert and Lutz Seiler, born ‘into’ the socialist state and writing their way out of an oppressive East German regime.  

Special attention will be given to the paths of German poetry after unification with a host of writers taking poetry in radical new directions and meeting topics like migration, ecological degradation, or COVID-19 head on, including Ulrike Almut Sandig, Monika Rinck, and Ulrike Draesner. Some, like Nora Gomringer, playfully embrace the world of pop culture to delve into disturbing aspects of the past; others offer a philosophical encounter with landscape and the people who moved across it before us, like Esther Kinsky or Mara-Daria Cojocaru. 

Students will explore how poetry experiments with writing nature; writing things; writing the body; and writing voices. We will experiment with different kinds of formal challenges including the sonnet, concrete poetry, performance poetry, and poetry-films to see how traditional notions of ‘German poetry’ have given way to an exciting vista of ‘poetries’ in German – porous to transnational influences and constantly challenging the status quo, including work by Özlem Özgül Dündar and Uljana Wolf. 

This course will take its cue from the recent edition of Modern Poetry in Translation: Slap-Bang (Autumn 2021) with its special German focus; but will also introduce other German-language poets to give an up-to-date sense of how German poetry is forging its own exciting path in conversation with familiar traditions abut also constantly questioning them. 

By the end of the course, students will have produced a creative portfolio of new work, using the lessons learned from these poets writing in German. Students of all backgrounds will be able to engage with the course and no prior knowledge of German is required. 

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. No live chats. Suitable for UK & International students.  

To apply for a concessionary rate, please send relevant documentation showing your eligibility for one of our concessions to [email protected] Conditions of eligibility are detailed here.
If you have any questions or wish to be added to the waiting list of a sold-out course, please email [email protected]
For more information visit our Online Courses page. 

Image Credit: Christian Wiediger

About Karen Leeder View Profile

Karen Leeder is a writer, translator and academic, and is Professor of Modern German Literature at New College, Oxford where she works especially on modern and contemporary German poetry and runs the project Mediating Modern Poetry. She is a prize-winning translator of a number of German-language authors including Evelyn Schlag, Volker Braun, Michael Krüger, and Raoul Schrott and has won the Stephen Spender Prize, the Schlegel-Tieck Prize, the John Frederick Nims Memorial Prize, and a PEN-Heim prize for her translations of German poetry. Her most recent translations include Durs Grünbein, Porcelain: Poem on the Downfall of my City and Ulrike Almut Sandig, I am a field full of rapeseed, give cover to deer and shine like thirteen oil-paintings laid one on top of the other (both 2020). Grünbein’s Oxford Lectures For the Dying Calves: Beyond Literature appeared in 2021 with Seagull Books.

Poetry School offers a diverse range of courses to suit all abilities and interests. Materials are always stimulating and I have written many poems as a result of these courses.

- Autumn 2021 Survey

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