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Voices from the Bitter Core

Poetry from Germany by Ursula Krechel
Translated by Amy Kepple Strawser
Bilingual German/English

6" x 9"
313 pages

In this first-ever bilingual edition of Voices from the Bitter Core (Stimmen aus dem harten Kern) acclaimed German poet Ursula Krechel traces the devastating repercussions of violence and warfare, from the battles of Ancient Greece to the trenches of World War I and the invasions of our current century. Krechel employs a collage technique that blends ancient and modern in an inventive and astute way, mixing quotes taken from military instruction manuals and codes of conduct with the imagined perspectives of historical figures such as Byron and Philoctetes and the anonymous voices of soldiers and civilians. The arbitrariness of violence is juxtaposed with the strikingly rigorous form, with each of the twelve chapters consisting of twelve twelve-line poems. Behind this multiplicity of speakers and techniques, the reader hears a lyrical and monumental voice that distils the essence of war. Voices from the Bitter Core is a profound and lasting memorial to the wages of human brutality.

Praise for Voices from the Bitter Core:

Thoughtfully translated, Voices from the Bitter Core is an epic in twelve parts, each containing twelve poems of twelve lines each, all in loosely constructed couplets. We begin in Troy, but nothing is entirely sequential. Byron appears; the epic gathers momentum to dive into the Napoleonic Wars, World War II, and Iraq, before arriving back where we began. It is a brutal, breathless journey. Antepenultimate, Philoctetes speaks, preparing to leave Lemnos ("I will / Kill again when I am needed"), his fateful wounded leg echoing Byron's. Finally, a segue into the present, soldiers returning home, "hero-impersonators, departed, slipping into suits / Of bank employees." Dense, sometimes difficult, but truly rewarding.

– Maxine Kumin

Ursula Krechel was born in 1947 in Trier, Germany. She studied German, theatre, and art history, and has taught at various universities. She has published prose, prose, radio plays and essays. She lives in Berlin.

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