cover image Selected Poems of Friedrich Hlderlin

Selected Poems of Friedrich Hlderlin

Friedrich Holderlin, , trans. from the German by Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover. . Omnidawn, $24.95 (489pp) ISBN 978-1-890650-35-3

Sublime visionary, great religious poet attracted to pagan myth and German poet of world-historical importance, Hölderlin (1770–1843) at the turn of the 19th century made his mark with Greek-inspired odes, intensely heterodox (and often never completed) hymns to imagined gods and real European places, and elegies on love. All these great works came about before 1807, when the tormented writer suffered a mental breakdown. Despite his importance to subsequent German poets (Rilke) and philosophers (Heidegger), and despite careful translations, Hölderlin has never enjoyed the U.S. following attracted by (for example) the author of The Duino Elegies . That may change with this ample yet sensitive facing-page version. Husband and wife team Chernoff and Hoover—both are experimental poets, fiction writers and editors—do best with the strangest (most clearly “modern”) stanzas and pieces of unfinished hymns, but also give fine attention to the earlier, more elegant works and to the naïve rhyming poetry of Hölderlin's last years. Here is the Hölderlin who praised “The Poet's Courage,” asking, “Isn't everything alive already in your blood?” Here too is the poet for whom modern life is at once opportunity and abyss: “I approached to see the gods,” he wrote, “[a]nd they themselves threw me down beneath the living.” (Sept.)