cover image Songs in Flight: The Complete Poetry of Ingeborg Bachman

Songs in Flight: The Complete Poetry of Ingeborg Bachman

Ingeborg Bachmann. Marsilio Publishers, $40 (337pp) ISBN 978-1-56886-009-1

This collection brings to an English-speaking audience virtually the entire poetic output of one of the most important post-war European poets, offering the original German and sensitive translations by poet Filkins. At the time of her death by fire in 1973, Bachmann's fame as a poet had waned somewhat because she had stopped writing poetry in favor of prose. But her work has since been rediscovered, and is all the more lasting for being written in a style that could be called transhistorical: she addressed the horrors of World War II and the problem of approaching the unspeakable, yet did so in an expressionistic, symbolic and even allegorical poetic mode. Her images are still profoundly striking now, and her admonitions to remember are still forceful. While this poetry is wholly unlike the personal first-person lyric in English, Bachmann is more accessible than her contemporary, Paul Celan, whom she in some ways resembles. Though somber, her poems are ultimately attempts to rebuild a world, first in imagination and, ironically, with the fragments of the past: ``Out of our dreams, gold can still be filtered,/ while under the sea our legacy still lies.'' (Nov.)