Welcome to Passing on the Flame. My name is Peter Lach-Newinsky. This site is an archive 0f my own translations from German texts of the past, both poetry and prose.
As far as I have been able to make out, English translations of most of these texts are either non-existent, hard to come by or often inadequately translated. In my view all these texts have something important to say, a certain spirit or flame to pass on, a flame, hopefully, to be warmed, burned, inspired, moved by, as I have been.
Like many before me, all I am trying to do in some small way here is to simply be just one more minor transmitter or relay point of this flame. It is, I would claim, a flame that has moved through European, perhaps global, history, often at the margins of and/or against the mainstream current of culture and society. It is often grounded in the both imaginative and subversive conviction that, in the contemporary phrase, ‘another world is possible.’
With the works in this archive I hope to introduce Anglophone readers to some of the richness and depth of this alternative and/or poetic current in German. Another assumption I am making here is that no wider, richer, more democratic present and future, no ‘bread and roses for all’, can be achieved without the work of cultural memory, a work now perhaps to some extent endangered in the frenetic, time-poor world of the tweet and sound byte, the search engine summary, digital overwhelm, shallow reading and TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read).
At the same time, a, finally, completely globalized world is increasingly also one of literally and figuratively crossing and transcending national borders and barriers, including those of culture and language. Both Capital and the poor, displaced and marginalised are battering down the doors. Whatever else we may have been, we Homo sapiens are also, and have been since our beginnings, a One World in-the-making. Even as the crises dangerously increase on all levels of human and ecological existence, the possibilities of human self-realization are expanding. As literary critic George Steiner has remarked (in his introduction to The Penguin Book of Modern Verse Translation):
‘No language, moreover, however comprehensive, however resourceful and inclusive its syntax, covers more than a fraction of human realization. There are, at every moment and on every horizon worlds beyond our own worlds. Hence the urge to cross the barriers of national speech, the effort to make other insights, other tools of awareness, available. […] A major, perhaps a predominant element in our culture, in the fabric of our consciousness, is inevitably translation. ‘Say what one will of its inadequacy,’ wrote Goethe to Carlyle, ‘translation remains one of the most important, worthwhile concerns in the totality of world affairs.’ Without it we would live in arrogant parishes bordered by silence.’
I grew up bilingually in Australia, speaking German at home, in the 1950s and 60s. Later I studied English and German (as well as French, Theatre, Politics and Social Theory) at Australian and German universities (Sydney, Munich, Frankfurt). I lived and worked in Germany from 1967-87, later teaching English, Social Sciences and Drama at senior secondary level. I am a poet, essayist, long time eco-activist and grower of 120 old apple varieties on 20 acres in the southern highlands not too far from Sydney, Australia.
Published books: Working with Poetry (together with Martin Seletzky, Kamp Verlag 1986), The Post-Man Letters and Other Poems (Picaro Press 2010), Requiem (Picaro Press 2012), The Southern Highlands Poetry Anthology (editor; self-published 2013) and Cut a Long Story Short (Puncher & Wattmann 2014). Poetry chapbooks: The Knee Monologues (Picaro Press 2009), On the Innocence of Clouds (Picaro Wagtail No. 104, 2010), Collidoscope (Mark Time Books 2011). Awards: Varuna-Picaro Publishing Fellowship, Vera Newsom Poetry Prize, Melbourne Poets Union International Poetry Prize.
Some of my own poems and essays can be found at my other blog memengineering.
…But between two breaths or some bird’s call,
a pause in a conversation or a train of thought
the flame is there, the memory passed on untaught,
a torch across time & place between perfect strangers
in active struggle or reading books, the perfection
of the instant we imperfect ones are together free
& truly human, humbly sketching the eternally failed
& quivering not-yet of our rising god to be.
(from my poem ‘We spend a liftetime losing the perfection of the instant’, in: Requiem, Picaro Press 2012)
In the spirit of the Creative Commons, the translations at this site are free for all non-commercial use. Please simply accredit this website as the source and its author.
(Note: The fire landscape image used in the header of this blog is a painting by Australian artist Tim Storrier).