Günter Eich--German


Günter Eich


Günter Eich was a lyricist, dramatist, poet and author. Born in 1907 in Germany, Eich received his education in Leipzig, Berlin and Paris.   During World War II he served in the Wehrmacht and was captured. He was released by the Americans in 1946. The following year, he helped found Gruppe 47, a group of left-wing writers, including Paul Celan, Gunter Grass and Erich Fried. In 1950, he received the Literature Prize for young writers for these poems, Abgelegene Gehöfte.  Eich’s poem “Inventory,” which appears in this book, is one of Germany’s most famous war poems. It relates a prisoner’s belongings. Eich was dedicated to bringing the German language back to “life” following the war. He continued to write prose, poetry and radio plays until his death in 1972.

This is my cap,
this is my coat,
here’s my shaving gear
in a linen sack.
A can of rations:
my plate, my cup,
I’ve scratched my name
in the tin. 
Scratched it with this
valuable nail
which I hide
from avid eyes. 
In the foodsack is
a pair of wool socks
and something else that I
show to on one, 
It all serves as a pillow
for my head at night.
The cardboard here lies
between me and the earth. 
The lead in my pencil 
I love most of all:
in the daytime it writes down
the verses I make at night.
This is my notebook,
this is my tarpaulin,
this is my towel, 
this is my thread.
Translated by David Young