mark terrill | part II germany

15 11 2009

Poetry Dispatch No. 299 | November 15, 2009


Editor’s Note: The Atlanta Review and the guest editor for this issue, Mark Terrill, are to be congratulated for bringing together a special International Features Section: “The Poetry of Germany.” In all honesty, there isn’t a bad poem in the batch. I could have easily chosen six other poems, six other poets. Every poem in this collection says it…gets it right, holds you still in time and place, leaves you both wondering…and in a state of wonder. Germany, for certain, past, present, future lives and breathes in these lines.

Anyone who knows me, my history, work, websites, workshops, talks, passions, knows I am a lover and advocate of the literature of other countries and cultures. I think it was there from the very beginning, having gown up in an ethnic family, another language and way of life. When I began to write (my first stories for sure) it was other cultures, I turned to for a sense of story, structure, theme: Russian, Czech, Polish, German, Hungarian, Jewish, Greek, Scandinavian, South American, Far Eastern…

I wish there were more of this these days, more translations in New York publishing circles. More publishers willing to take the risk. We need to share each other’s stories and poems. We had this once, back in the 70’s, when Phillip Roth edited a series of translations (mass market paperbacks…f$2.95 up), “Writers from the Other Europe” for Penquin Books.

Roth described his efforts and reasons in part: “The purpose of this paperback series is to bring together outstanding and influential works of fiction by Eastern European writers. In many instances they will be writers who, though recognized as powerful forces in their on cultures, are virtually unknown in America. It is hoped that by reprinting selected Eastern European writers in this format and with introductions that place each work in its literary and historical context, the literature that has evolved in “the other Europe” during the postwar decades will be made more accessible to an interested American readership.”

Two of the books from that series that I treasure most are Milan Kunderas’, LAUGHABLE LOVES and Bruno Schulz’s, THE STREET OF CROCODILES.

Here are six contemporary poets from a collection of almost forty chosen by Mark Terrill—an American writer living in German since the 1980’s. (Scroll down or seek: “Poetry Dispatch #297”). He has a good eye. A good sense of what remains in the heart and soul of Germany today. One thing for certain—a past that continues to haunt.

I was especially pleased to see that the final selection is, perhaps THE voice of Germany past, present, future: Günter Grass. –Norbert Blei


by Gerald Fiebig

The Second War, the war of 39 to 45,
Begins when you identify your own inner Third Reich
—Momus, Three Wars, 1987

& then, just like any other aging war criminal
who suddenly knows that his time’s up
you will feel the urge to foul yourself with self-pity
& indulge your remorse.
& then, when the sugar bowl next to your cup
will conjure up the sugar loaf mountain
of your picturesque exile—then
the girl from ipanema will fail to appear.

& then, just like any other arsonist with a cause to defend
you will feel the urge to talk about what you read
in the books, what you touched in the bodies
before you burned both.

& then, on a night perhaps, on a night just as hot
as this, as hot as the sand of the copacabana, as hot
as the bodies when you touched them, in fever,
as hot as their ashes, that only cooled when you’d gone
you may want somebody to listen to you
talking about the past that you tried to forget.
& then you may want to speak in a voice with a name
known only to you, the name from the passport you burned.
& then everyone will fail to appear. & then you will start
to talk to yourself. & just then you will notice
that whatever you wanted to forget all those years
but wanted to tell now in the voice you disowned

is already forgotten. your doctor has seen you;
not mengele, not goebbels—dr. alzheimer.
& then you will pause for breath, between silence
& silence. & then you will choke..

[From: Atlanta Review, GERMANY, edited by Mark Terrill, Spring / Summer 2009]…P.O. Box 8248, Atlanta, Georgia, 31106, $6]

I Live in Germany

by Kersten Flenter

I live in Germany but
Many say I look younger
With the calm of a scarecrow
I stand here and watch my life
From outside
Forget the number with the soul, man
Or the state of mind
It’s something organic—
In the womb you acquire
Heart lungs eyes arms
And later you grow angst disappointment
And melancholy as well
And still the question is:
Where to go while being watched by
Three Brandenburger skinheads
Where to look when
Refrigerator doors shut behind children
Take the reason
Why you’re here
And subtract it from what you see
And when you realize
That it’s your own feet
Which are standing in these shoes
Tell them they can go

translated by Mark Terrill and the author

[From: Atlanta Review, GERMANY, edited by Mark Terrill]

ice floes

by Norbert Hummelt

once again the ice is breaking and she tells
me again how something was dawning and
was at an end: the old stove… the cold war…
in my head the machine is running slowly then
all at once transformation’s there: body-warm
water is beginning to flow again ice riding in floes
on the rhine we can read about this in a chronicle
the cuban crisis not long past he was only in town
in the mornings you see there wasn’t so much
traffic then quiet in the crib or in his arms the one
born after his grandson listens to the sounds that
enclosed him we had only just got a telephone
and there was a stillness like the one just now
the call came as all the snow was already
thawing the earth split the way it was forty
years ago even if the fractures are not so visible
you sit in his armchair made of the old wood

translated by Catherine Hales

[from GERMANY, edited by Mark Terrill]

Miniatures (Three Excerpts)

by Marie T. Martin

Gastro II

The restaurant in the freight yard lies hidden behind an entire business of empty factories, which are not illuminated at night. Only in front of one restaurant are standing torches. While eating it can happen that a train passes through the dining room. screeching and loaded with empty tanks, so that for a while all conversation is impossible.


My pillow, I’ve discovered, makes noises at night. If I press my face into it, I can hear quite clearly: ocean sounds, the cry of the gulls, and somewhat less clearly, the cry of the sailors. Only once did I hear the voice of a woman.

Day Trip

I went for a walk along the river with a friend. A boat was chained up at a dock. We sat in the boat to rock ourselves, then the chain loosened itself and the boat set off. Quickly we left the city and the land behind us and already with the appearance of the first star we found ourselves in foreign waters and from the shore we heard people calling, in a totally unknown language.

translated by Mark Terrill

[from GERMANY, edited by Mark Terrill]

This Winter

by Volker Sielaff

as you came
and I burned tangerine peels
and asked you where / have you been?
as I laid a bath towel around your shoulders
and said I don’t want / to know
as I smiled
and the black bow in your hair / loosened
as you said me neither

translated by Mark Terrill

[from GERMANY, edited by Mark Terrill]

Where to Flee

by Günter Grass

when all islands are sold,
aevery cave is watched by sleepless eyes,
aaand on grandmother’s skirt,
aaawhere occasionally refuge was to be found,
aaaaa note is stuck
aaaaaaon which capital letters spell out OCCUPIED?

Stay then,
aride out the changing weather
aaand, as learned,
aaaspit against the wind—
aaaanot yet
aaaaahas everything been said.

translated by Mark Terrill

[from GERMANY, edited by Mark Terrill]


Atlanta Review – German poetryThe Spring/Summer 2009 issue of the Atlanta Review with the international feature on Germany which I guest-edited is out now and available in tastefully and competently stocked bookstores or via the AR website. A single issue costs $6; a one-year subscription costs just $9.99 and includes one free issue. Check out the AR site for sample poems from the issue and ordering info. Includes previously unpublished translations of work by Günter Grass, Peter Handke, Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, Silke Scheuermann, Nicolas Born, Jörg Fauser, Monika Rinck, Ernst Jandl, Anne Dorn and many others. Translators include Alistair Noon, Cathy Hales, Rosmarie Waldrop, Mark Terrill and many others.

mark terrill | poems from an expatriate | part I

30 10 2009

PoetryDispatch No. 297 | October 30, 2009


Poems from an Expatriate
Part l

To begin with, a little bio on Mark Terrill:

While everyone else was going to school, Mark Terrill was working and traveling, shipping out as a merchant seaman, and touring with various rock bands in the capacity of road manager. In 1982 he was a participant in Paul Bowles’ writing workshop in Tangier, Morocco, and after extended stays in Tangier, Lisbon, Paris and Hamburg, he’s lived in Germany since 1984, where he’s been scraping by in various guises, including shipyard welder, cook and postal worker. Recent books include The United Colors of Death (Pathwise Press), Bread & Fish (The Figures) and Kid with Gray Eyes (Cedar Hill Publications), and his selected translations of Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, Like a Pilot (Sulphur Literary Review Press). Other writings and translations have appeared in several limited edition chapbooks and more than 300 magazines, journals and periodicals around the world. Four of his poems were included in the anthology Ends and Beginnings (City Lights Review #6), edited by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He’s prone to giving readings of his work at various venues in Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin Prague and elsewhere, the details of which can be found at

The thing I love about Terrill’s poetry—he puts you there, exactly…where he’s comfortable…where you want to be, where he is…what he’s seeing, feeling, thinking—that too, a thinking man’s poetry…the street philosopher ruminating in plain words, ordinary lines set down so seemingly effortlessly. The there for me is heartbreakingly haunting, beautiful…where I want to be, as his poems come sifting through the mind.

I’m going to risk it, use a word most writers hate: “nostalgia”. A good word. A beautiful one. Nothing to be ashamed of. Echoes of ‘home.’ His poems bring me back to a time and place(s) I once knew. The writer (young) abroad. Temporarily exiled from middle-America. A longing to be back there—the old world. Paris …the cafes, the bridges across the Seine, the open buses, the streets that became poems with each step…that ramshackle four-storey walk-up hotel, off the Boulevard St. Michel…the old lady at the front desk with the cat, the tiny room (no bath), the rumpled bed, the flowered wallpaper, the shuttered windows thrown open wide to a small balcony with all of Paris within arm’s reach day and night…a Paris that was still/forever Hemingway’s, Stein’s, Pound’s, Proust’s …where you felt right at home with the long history of writers and artists. So, this is Paris!… I write, therefore I am.

Mark Terrill has been living in Europe for over twenty years. Some of this fantasy of ‘foreign’ has possibly worn off…though I sense it yet, still alive in much of his work. I sense, too, a touch of what Felinghetti saw and found the everyday language to express. A touch of Henry Miller’s gargantuan appetite to take it all in, get it all down, revel in daily life…the common uncommon touch of Jacques Prevert’s, PAROLES.

“I am sitting in the café La Madeleine de Proust in the Rue Descartes on a mild sunny October afternoon…” one of Mark’s prose poems begins…and I’m sitting beside him, (you too) taking it all in… —norbert blei

Ninety-Nine Islands

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaA day off in Sasebo, Japan.
aaaaaaaaaaI’m down the gangway and gone.
I reappear on a sightseeing boat
aaaaaaaaaacruising the nearby Ninety-Nine Islands.
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaJapanese tourists along the rail,
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaacameras clicking and zooming,
me sitting on a bench, eyes shut,
aaaaaaaaaaaaaabsorbing the fallow winter sun,
aaaaaaaasavoring a brief respite from the
arduous dirty sweaty greasy toil in the engine room,
aaaaaaathe drunken brawling, bitching and whining,
aaaaaaaaaaaaagratuitous violence and hidden racist agenda
aaaaaaathat makes up life on the dilapidated tanker
aaaaaaaaaaaaaawhich has been my home
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafor the last six months.

I open my eyes and see a black-haired kid,
aaaaaathree years old at the most, with dark shiny eyes,
aaaaaaaaaaaasoft pink face, and outstretched hand,
aaaaaaunsteadily holding out a crumbling rice cracker
aaaaaaaaaaaain my direction, gently encouraged
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaby a silent smiling father behind him.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaThe kid smiles and I have to smile too.
I watch him working to overcome
aaaaaaathe last barriers of shyness and timidity,
seeing his tiny struggle as emblematic
of some greater, more meaningful struggle,
aaaaaaain which all of us are teetering on the invisible edge
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaof some last confining indecision.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaNext day, back on board the rusty tanker,
aaaplying the waters of the East China Sea,
amidst the deafening boiler-turbine cacophony,
aaaaaaabelly full of chicken-fried steak and pie a’ la mode,
pumping bilges, reading gauges, mopping oil and sweat,
aaaaaaaa sudden flashback puts the salty delicate taste
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaof the little kid’s sweaty rice cracker
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaright back in the middle of my tongue.

[from The Salvador-Dalai-Lama Express, Main Street Rag, PO Box 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227 (, 2009, $10/8e


I leave my hotel in the
rue du Cardinal-Lemoine
and walk down the hill
to the banks of the Seine.
I sit down on a massive stone abutment
just across from Notre Dame,
where grace hovers hesitantly
above the shoulders of stalwart gargoyles.

Still young and single,
no permanent address,
my pockets full of seaman’s wages;
a liter bottle of vin rouge
can still be bought for 90 centimes,
which stains the teeth a deep violet
and leaves the brain
throbbing in the morning.

In my bohemian apprenticeship
I’ve lingered outside
Hemingway’s old apartment,
drank endless cafe au laits
in Lipp’s, The Flore, and Deux Magots,
tossed down beer after beer
and bottomless Pernods
in Paul Celan’s favorite dive.

Now I watch an old man fishing;
black beret, rumpled army surplus sweater,
and all the churlish patience
of a surly Captain Ahab.
The name of the game
is perseverance.
What could Paris possibly teach me
that this old man doesn’t know?

[from The Salvador-Dalai-Lama Express, Main Street Rag, PO Box 690100, Charlotte, NC 28227 (, 2009, $10/8e

The Kiss

Early Monday morning the night train from Hamburg pulls into the Gare du Nord & I step down from the train & make my way through the crowded bustling station & emerge through the front doors & am confronted with the spectacle of intense rush hour traffic now almost at a standstill making the Place de Roubaix seem like a giant sea of sheet metal or a vast cubist-futurist collage accompanied by honking horns & idling motors & clouds of exhaust & the staccato rattle of jackhammers & the piercing blasts of the traffic policemen’s whistles as they struggle to maintain a semblance of movement through the obstacle course of metal barricades set up by the street department who have torn up huge sections of the street for some expansive construction project while people are loading & unloading luggage from cars & taxis & pedestrians are streaming in & out of the station working their way through the maze-like ever-shifting gridlock & delivery drivers & motorcycle couriers are vainly struggling to inch ahead as the collective tension increases exponentially becoming a palpable pulsing presence & suddenly I catch sight of a young couple standing beacon-like in the middle of the stagnating chaotic scenario locked in an embrace apparently totally oblivious to their surroundings deeply immersed as they are in the obvious sensual pleasures of a prolonged & passionate kiss thus putting a particularly Parisian-romantic spin on the otherwise harrowing reality of another Monday morning in the grinding-to-a-halt City of Light.

[from Sending Off the Godhead in the City of Light, Hydrogen Jukebox Press, Burg, Germany, 2006]

The Time Time Takes

I’m sitting in the cafe La Madeleine de Proust in the Rue Descartes on a mild sunny October afternoon having just finished a tomato & basil tarte & green salad & a glass of red wine now leaning back in my chair lingering over a cup of espresso aimlessly soaking up the atmosphere admiring the cloudless blue sky & the sheen of the black slate roofs & the stalwart stone edifices of the buildings & the cobblestone streets polished to a high gloss from all the endless years of use & eventually my eyes come to rest on the receipt in the little silver tray on the green metal table with its patina of age & spots of rust & reading the name & address I find myself in a sudden interstice where the names Proust & Descartes are overlapping & refracting my perspective & perception accordingly & then I’m thinking about thinking and the time time takes & all that goes with it when it goes & what little actually remains as proof that we are what we are merely because we’re able to think about it which in terms of substantiality really doesn’t seem like very much at all.

[from Sending Off the Godhead in the City of Light, Hydrogen Jukebox Press, Burg, Germany, 2006]

Sending Off the Godhead in the City of Light

Time to kill before the reading at the gallery—walk over to the Seine & descend worn stone steps in the darkness-fractured shimmer of neon & streetlamps scattered across the wavelets—over there two lovers kissing in the shadows-over there a dope deal going down—over there a lone cigarette glowing secret agent-like in the inky gloom under the bridge—& just downstream Notre Dame all ablaze in the zillion-watt glow of the incessant incandescent full-fathom perennial millennial fossil-fuel maximum blowout illumina¬tion apparently necessary to eradicate the brooding darkness in which all our latent fears might otherwise take root as a party boat motors by with oblivious revelers unknowingly celebrating the end of an age not yet named.

[from Sending Off the Godhead in the City of Light, Hydrogen Jukebox Press, Burg, Germany, 2006]

Also by Mark Terrill


  • Postcard from Mount Sumeru | Bottle of Smoke Press, 2006
  • The United Colors of Death | Pathwise Press, 2003
  • Bread & Fish (prose poems) | The Figures, 2002
  • Kid with Gray Eyes | Cedar Hill Publications, 2001
  • Love-Hate Continuum | Green Bean Press, 2001
  • Sorry Try Again | Red Dancefloor Press, 1998
  • Subliminal Madness | Triton Press, 1978


  • Here to Learn: Remembering Paul Bowles | Green Bean Press, 2002


  • Like a Pilot: Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, Selected Poems 1963-1970  | Sulphur River Literary Review Press, 2001

mark terrill | ways in, ways out

22 05 2009

Mark Terrill | Photo: Vudi

Poetry Dispatch No. 282 | 21, 2009

The Art & The Artists of Self Destruction, #2


Ways In, Ways Out

by Mark Terrill

Hemingway’s looking down the
twin-barrel of the shotgun
into a blue metallic void.

Hart Crane has one foot on deck,
the other over the rail,
his eye on the ship’s boiling wake below.

Sylvia Plath’s on her knees in the kitchen
with her head in the oven,
wondering if she paid the gas bill or not.

Paul Celan looks down and sees
one last despondent metaphor
in the swirling waters of the Seine.

Richard Brautigan’s up in Bolinas
with a Saturday-night-special
nudged snugly in his graying temple.

Virginia Woolf’s got
rocks in her pockets,
the river tugging at her knocking knees.

Lew Welch loads his 30-30 rifle,
heads up into the California hills,
unsure about when he’ll be coming back.

Anne Sexton’s out in the garage,
doors shut tight, motor running,
finding solace in a noxious gray cloud.

The ways in merge with the ways out,
life’s complexity compounds daily,
and no one’s getting any writing done today.

Mark Terrill shipped out of San Francisco as a merchant seaman to the Far East and beyond, studied and spent time with Paul Bowles in Tangier, Morocco, and has lived in Europe since 1984, presently on the grounds of a former shipyard near Hamburg, Germany, with his wife and seven cats. The author of 15 volumes of poetry, memoir and translations, he recently guest-edited a special German Poetry issue of the Atlanta Review, which includes his translations of Günter Grass, Peter Handke, Rolf Dieter Brinkmann and many others. A three-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize, his own work has been translated into German, French and Portuguese, and he’s recently given readings in various venues in Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris and Prague. His latest chapbook is The Salvador-Dalai-Lama Express from Main Street Rag. Together with Cralan Kelder they edit & publish the poetry journal Full Metal Poem.

Editor’s Note: Please check for the archived version for this dispatch within the next 24 hours at: