© Image by Caroline Forbes

Michael Hamburger

(1924 - 2007)

"...as both poet and translator he has succeeded over many decades in placing the best silences in the best order." - Dennis O'Driscoll

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These poems come from a special recording for the Poetry Archive:

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Select bibliography

  • C. Baudelaire, Twenty Prose Poems (translator), London, Poetry London, 1946 (revised ed. San Francisco, City Light Books 1988)
  • Flowering Cactus: poems 1942-1949, Aldington, Hand and Flower Press, 1950 - out of print
  • Poems of Hölderlin (translator), Poetry London 1943, (revised ed. as Holderlin: his Poems, Harvill Press, 1952) - out of print
  • Trakl, Decline (translator), St. Ives, Guido Morris/Latin Press, 1952 - out of print
  • Poems 1950-1951, Hand and Flower Press, 1952 - out of print
  • A. Goes, The Burnt Offering (translator), London, Gollancz, 1956 - out of print
  • Reason and Energy, London, Routledge & K. Paul, 1957 - out of print
  • The Dual Site, Routledge & K. Paul, 1958 - out of print
  • B Brecht, Tales from the Calendar (translator), London, Methuen, 1961 (reissued London, Lion & Unicorn Press 1980) - out of print
  • H Von Hofmannsthal, Poems and Verse Plays (translator with others), Routledge & K. Paul, and New York, Bollingen Foundation, 1961 - out of print
  • J C F Hölderlin, Selected Verse (translator), Harmondsworth, Middlesex, Penguin, 1961 (latest ed. London, Anvil, 1986)
  • Modern German Poetry 1910-1960 (translator with C Middleton), Routledge, and New York, McGibbon & Kee, 1962 - out of print
  • Weather and Season: New Poems, London, Longmans, 1963 - out of print
  • From Prophecy to Exorcism: the Premisses of Modern German Literature, Longmans, 1965 - out of print
  • G Grass, Selected poems (translator with C Middleton), Newcastle, Northern House, 1966 - out of print
  • H M Enzensberger, Poems (translator), Northern House, 1966 - out of print
  • J C F Hölderlin, Poems and Fragments (translator), Routledge, and USA, University of Michigan Press, 1967 (revised ed. 2004)
  • Feeding the Chickadees, London, Turret Press, 1968 - out of print
  • H M Enzensberger, The Poems of Hans Magnus Enzensberger (translator with J Rothenberg and the author), London, Secker & Warburg, 1968 - out of print
  • H M Enzensberger, Poems for People Who Don't Read Poems (translator), Secker & Warburg, 1968 - out of print
  • P Bichsel, And Really Frau Blum Would Very Much Like to Meet the Milkman (translator), London, Calder and Boyars, 1968 - out of print
  • G Eich, Journeys (ed. Nathaniel Tarn, translator Michael Hamburger), London, Jonathan Cape, 1968 - out of print
  • N Sachs, Selected Poems (translator), Jonathan Cape and New York, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1968 - out of print
  • G Büchner, Lenz (translator), Buffalo, USA, Frontier Press, 1966 - out of print
  • G Grass, The Poems of Gunter Grass (translator with C Middleton), Penguin, 1969 - out of print
  • Penguin Modern Poets 14 (contributor with Alan Brownjohn and Charles Tomlinson), Penguin, 1969 - out of print
  • Travelling, London, Fulcrum, 1969 - out of print
  • Paul Celan, Poems (translator), Manchester, Carcanet, 1972 (new enlarged ed. as Poems of Paul Celan, New York, Persea, 1988 and 2002, and Anvil Press, 2007)
  • East German Poetry (translator), Carcanet, 1972 - out of print
  • Travelling I-V, London, Agenda Editions, 1973
  • Ownerless Earth, Carcanet, 1973 - out of print
  • Peter Huchel, Selected poems (translator), Carcanet, 1974 - out of print
  • Travelling VI, Agenda Editions, 1975 - out of print
  • Art as Second Nature, Carcanet, 1975 - out of print
  • German Poetry 1910-1975 (translator), Carcanet, 1977 - out of print
  • Real Estate, Carcanet, 1977 - out of print
  • Helmut Heissenbuttel, Texts (translator), Calder and Boyars, 1977 - out of print
  • Moralities, Newcastle, A Morden Tower Reading, 1977 - out of print
  • Franco Fortini, Poems (translator), Todmorden, Lancashire, Arc Publications, 1978 - out of print
  • Collected Poems, Carcanet, 1980 - out of print
  • An Unofficial Rilke (translator), London, Anvil Press, 1981 - out of print
  • Variations, Carcanet, 1981 - out of print
  • Peter Huchel, The Garden of Theophrastus (translator), Carcanet, 1983 (new ed. Anvil Press, 2004)
  • Goethe, Poems and Epigrams (translator), Anvil Press, 1983 - out of print
  • A Proliferation of Prophets, Carcanet, 1983 - out of print
  • Marin Sorescu, Selected Poems (translator), Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Bloodaxe, 1983 - out of print
  • Collected Poems, Carcanet, 1984 - out of print
  • After the Second Flood: essays in modern German Literature, Carcanet, 1986 - out of print
  • Trees, Embers Hand Press, 1988.
  • Selected Poems, Carcanet, 1988
  • Testimonies, Carcanet, 1989 - out of print
  • Gunter Eich, Pigeons and Moles (translator), London, Skoob Books, 1991 - out of print
  • Roots in the Air, Anvil Press, 1991
  • A Mug's Game (memoir), Carcanet, 1991, (revised ed. as String of Beginnings) - out of print
  • String of Begnnings (memoir), Skoob Seriph, 1991
  • H M Enzensberger, Selected poems (translator), Bloodaxe, 1994
  • Collected Poems 1941-1994, Anvil Press, 1995, (new ed. 1999)
  • The Truth of Poetry, London, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1969, (latest ed. Anvil, 1996)
  • G Grass, Novemberland (translator), New York, 1996
  • Goethe, Roman Elegies and other Poems and Epigrams (translator), Anvil Press, 1996 - out of print
  • H M Enzensberger, Kiosk (translator), Bloodaxe, 1997
  • Late, Anvil Press, 1997
  • Friedrich Hölderlin, Selected poems and Fragments (translator), Penguin Classics, 1998 (new ed. 2007)
  • Michael Hamburger in Conversation with Peter Dale, Between the Lines, 1998
  • G Grass, Selected Poems 1956-1993 (translator), London, Faber & Faber, 1999
  • Mr Littlejoy's Rattlebag for the New Millennium, Katabasis, 1999
  • Intersections, Anvil Press, 2000
  • Philip Larkin: a retrospect, London, Enitharmon, 2002
  • From a Diary of Non-Events, Anvil Press, 2002
  • W G Sebald, After Nature (translator), London, Hamish Hamilton, 2002
  • W G Sebald, Unrecounted (translator), Hamish Hamilton, 2004
  • Wild and Wounded, Anvil Press, 2004
  • Michael Hamburger Reading from his Poems, The Poetry Archive, 2005
  • Circling the Square, Anvil Press, 2007
Michael Hamburger (1924 - 2007) was born into a German family of Jewish descent in Berlin, emigrating with them to England in 1933. He attended Westminster School and read Modern Languages at Christ Church, Oxford where his contemporaries included Philip Larkin and John Heath-Stubbs. His studies were interrupted by the Second World War and army service. He then worked as a lecturer in German at University College, London and this was followed by a succession of academic posts, both in the UK and America. Hamburger's work as "a meticulous translator" (TLS) made available to English-language readers a host of German writers including Büchner, Celan, Enzensberger, Goethe, Grass, Hölderlin, Rilke and Trakl and did much to pioneer a greater understanding of German Literature at an inauspicious time. He wrote over twenty volumes of his own poetry as well as highly regarded criticism and autobiography. His work was recognised by many awards including the Medal of the Institute of Linguists, the Goethe Medal and the European Translation Prize. He was awarded an OBE in 1992. Michael Hamburger died in June 2007.

The critic Stephen Romer has detected a fascinating "dividedness" in Hamburger's work, on the one hand steeped in European culture and engaged in the socio-political issues of the day, on the other a nature poet in the English tradition, absorbed in the atmosphere of his rural Suffolk home. The two impulses reflect Hamburger's mixed inheritance and the fruitful tension between them informs his long sequence 'From A Diary of Non-Events'. Meticulously observed descriptions of weather, flora and landscape (Hamburger was a keen and knowledgeable gardener) are juxtaposed with his outrage at the mono-culture of big-business capitalism. Like a modern-day Lear, Hamburger storms at this "junk age" and the damage it's inflicting on "the maimed globe", mourning England's vanished birds or the hedgerows "slashed" to allow trucks "grown cottage-sized" to pass unhindered. The energy of his anger is tempered by a strong sense of elegy in these late poems which frequently commemorate dead friends as well as his own past. His magisterial reading style is in tune with the rolling latinate syntax and finely-honed structures of the poems which form an eloquent argument against a literary culture that values hype over history.

His recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 17 April 2003 at the poet's home in Suffolk, UK and was produced by Richard Carrington.


1977 Medal of the Institute of Linguists

1978 Schlegel-Tieck Prize

1981 Schlegel-Tieck Prize

1986 The Goethe Medal

1990 European Translation Prize

1991 Hölderlin Prize

1992 Petrarca Prize

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