Cold Hub Press ~ Karl Wolfskehl

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Great wings, spread flat gliding,

Broad wings, bearing, carrying away

High over deeps and boat, blackish and wide,

Light as light, yet slashing light, effortless

As if in play––but not play: as if the urge

Of air’s primeval breath were embodied in the wing.

And yet, who can, observes: from taut flanks

The rudder feathers are controlled sharp and hard.

And here, here, almost within reach, a majestic one

Arrow-like grazes my head, soars and leisurely

Plunges past, again and again, pierces

The immeasurable––breaks free of desire and dream.

That is you, Albatross! From my ferry

I take in the vision and greet you long,

Waving my beret, saluting you whom Baudelaire

Lauded in his poem as the poet’s image.

You the most free, him the prophet, my lip

Has strength to hail you. Storm and delusion

Are as familiar to me as to you. Of the same tribe

I, Job, traverse the timeless path of suffering.

translation © 2016 Andrew Paul Wood & Friedrich Voit

Wolfskehl woodcut © Wayne Seyb 2016

Karl Wolfskehl

Three Worlds / Drei Welten

Selected Poems

German and English

translated and edited by Andrew Paul Wood and Friedrich Voit

ISBN: 978-0-473-35867-9

Softcover, 312pp, 210 x 145mm

In 1933 the German Jewish poet Karl Wolfskehl (1869–1948), deeply disturbed by the brutal anti-Semitism rising in his native Germany, fled into exile in Switzerland and Italy. When Italy too adopted anti-Jewish legislation Wolfskehl left Europe, seeking asylum in faraway New Zealand, where he found shelter and the peace to continue writing poetry: his Mediterranean cycle and his most important composition Job, or The Four Mirrors.

This first ever comprehensive selection of Wolfskehl’s poetry in English translation, the work of New Zealand translator Andrew Paul Wood and Wolfskehl scholar Friedrich Voit, includes poems from his beginnings around 1900, but focuses on the work from his years of exile when he emerged from the shadow of his admired poet-friend Stefan George and found his own distinctive voice. It is in these poems that the ‘three worlds’, which constituted the creative identity of the poet Karl Wolfskehl, are expressed. In the famous lines of his autobiographical poem Ultimus Vatum:

Secretive and proud, worldly-wise, humble in God

Remained I Jewish, Roman, German all at once.

A naturalized New Zealander, Karl Wolfskehl died in 1948, in Auckland. His tombstone in the Waikumete cemetery bears his name in Hebrew and German, and underneath, the Latin inscription: Exul Poeta.

“I remember his size among my tomatoes: it was prodigious; and on the soft soil he left giant footprints.” ––Frank Sargeson, More than Enough.

“This book is a triumph."

––Peter Russell, New Zealand Books 116, Summer 2016.

" . . . an elegant book . . . as near as we are likely to get to the feel and tone

of Wolfskehl in the English language." C. K. Stead, NZ Poet Laureate blog.