Hydra's Heads by Nora Gomringer
by Nora Gomringer
Burning Eye's first poetry in translation - translated by Annie Rutherford.
Nora Gomringer is here translated into English for the first time by Scottish poet and editor Annie Rutherford. Experimental yet accessible, Nora Gomringer has demonstrated an almost unique ability to stride seamlessly from stage to page to film to literature festival and to be at home simultaneously in all zones of the poetry world.
Drawing on a number of Nora’s books Hydra’s Heads is comprised of poems which defy categorisation, and show Nora interweaving the best of German page and spoken word poetry to create something entirely her own. These are poems which laugh, howl, stamp their lines. They are candid, wry, compassionate. There are poems about the darker times of Germany’s modern history, reworkings of myths and fairy tales and a 3-page-long ode to sex against a wall.
Nora Gomringer is one of Germany's best known and loved contemporary poets. In the early 2000s she was a prominent voice in Germany's young slam scene, and her background in performance continues to inform her work. Her writing blurs the boundaries between performance and page poetry, as well as often intersecting with other art forms, from film to music and visual art. She's won a number of awards for her writing, from the Jacob Grimm German Language Prize in 2011 to the prestigious Ingeborg Bachmann Award in 2015. Annie Rutherford makes things with words, and champions poetry and translated literature in all its guises. She has divided her working life between Germany and Scotland, and is now programme co-ordinator for StAnza, Scotland's international poetry festival, as well as a freelance translator. She co-founded Goettingen's Poetree festival, edited the literary magazine Far Off Places and makes comics with illustrator Beth Barnett.
Annie Rutherford's translation of Nora Gomringer's poetry/prose/performance work is a Very Good Thing for English-language audiences. This work is determinedly offkilter, revelling in body discomfort, twisting to peer at lovers and history with a microscopic, often sardonic, gaze. There is a gritted effort to dissect the tongue, in more ways than one, and a hauling of national history and complicity into the present tense. She is not interested in comforting the reader and yet, for all that, there is unsentimental tenderness here, a sardonic-but-never-cynical, deeply felt joy. Rachel McCrum; Beautifully translated into the sort of English that feels utterly natural and rhythmically complete while managing to preserve the mouthfeel of Nora's inventive, electrifying German, Hydra's Heads delights with constructions such as `waterfeet' and `chimneying', `Youyouyours' and `Imemine'. In little poems and long poems, words are breathed into life so they become more than tool or musical instrument but letter flesh that pulses up and out from the page. The Holocaust hunkers near the heart of the book, not shied away from but acknowledged in simple, felt language as inherited nightmare and reminder of our human weakness. Love also blushes through the pages; sweet exhalations on a mirror or train window, the self dreaming the other in a moment which cannot be caught but is, and is. JL Williams