Book Reviews Literature Poetry Uncategorized

Stephen Romer, the warmth of Spring and Lentern Thoughts

The lines above come from Stephen Romer’s title poem in his 2008 collection Yellow Studio. This poetry book (Oxford Poetry Series ISBN978 1 90303985 4)I purchased having read some of his critical writings in the TLS (or was it the LRB?) Getting to understand a new poet inevitably takes time and I find that I have reached the point where actually I want to reassess my favourites; Auden, MacNeice, Yeats and Mahon). However, my interest in French Poetry remains strong and Romer is perhaps the leading translator. Incidentally, Romer keeps reminding me of the corresponding poetry and translations from German by Michael Hofmann. Here is a clip finding Romer reading at Worcester College, Oxford in 2019 about the warmth of the South,the approach of Spring, Air BnB and other matters.

Perusing the collection my eye was caught by the poems about returning to Paris.:-

Returning here

under the cold blue

the rue des Saules

is absurdly tender

with its pink house

on the corner

and the château des Brouillards

with its ruined vineyard

and secret trees

still a world on its own

(For more information on the misty castle opposite Renoir’s house see )

Rue des Saules

Another section of Yellow Studio deals with the poets relaxation and remembering a friend/lover recently lost ;an elegy conceived in the garden and about the house. It is called Pottering About.

any sign of neglect or decay

weighs on my conscience

when you were always the one

somewhere at work among the birdsong

and the appleboughs, the place marked

by a stupendous oath

as the Allen Scythe choked

or where the odd chainsaw

was hurled into the undergrowth

and I dreaming on

among my books

in the yellow attic room.

Here is Stephen Romer in more sombre mood reading at Trinity College, Cambridge in 2018

German Matters Literature Poetry Uncategorized

Die Stunde zwischen Wirklichkeit und Möglichkeit;Blaue Stunde -Gottfried Benn

Blaue Stunde

Ich trete in die dunkelblaue Stunde –
da ist der Flur, die Kette schließt sich zu
und nun im Raum ein Rot auf einem Munde
und eine Schale später Rosen – Du!

Wir wissen beide, jene Worte,
die jeder oft zu anderen sprach und trug,
sind zwischen uns wie nichts und fehl am Orte:
dies ist das Ganze und der letzte Zug.

Das Schweigende ist so weit fortgeschritten
und füllt den Raum und denkt sich selber zu
die Stunde – nichts gehofft und nichts gelitten –
mit ihrer Schale später Rosen – Du.

Dein Haupt verfließt, ist weiß und will sich hüten,
indessen sammelt sich auf deinem Mund;
die ganze Lust, der Purpur und die Blüten
aus deinem angestammten Ahnengrund.

Du bist so weiß, man denkt, du wirst zerfallen
vor lauter Schnee, vor lauter Blütenlos,
totweiße Rosen, Glied für Glied – Korallen
nur auf den Lippen, schwer und wundengroß.

Du bist so weich, du gibst von etwas Kunde,
von einem Glück aus Sinken und Gefahr
in einer blauen, dunkelblauen Stunde
und wenn sie ging, weiß keiner, ob sie war.

Ich frage dich, du bist doch eines andern,
was trägst du mir die späten Rosen zu?
Du sagst, die Träume gehn, die Stunden wandern,
was ist das alles: er und ich und du?

«Was sich erhebt, das will auch wieder enden,
was sich erlebt – wer weiß denn das genau,
die Kette schließt, man schweigt in diesen Wänden
und dort die Weite, hoch und dunkelblau.»



This very lovely poem appears in the useful collection “The Faber Book of 20th Century German Poems” where it has been translated by Michael Hofmann:-



Blue Hour


I enter the deep blue hour-

here is the landing, the chain shuts behind

and now in the room only carmine on a mouth

and a bowl of late roses-you!


We both know, those words

we both spoke and often offered others

are of no account and out of place between us:

this is everything and endgame.


Silence has advanced so far

it fills the room and seals it shut

the hour-nothing hoped and nothing suffered-

with its bowl of late roses-you.


Your face blurs, is white and fragile,

meanwhile there collects on your mouth

all of desire, the purple and the blossoms

from some ancestral flotsam stock.


You are so pale, I think you might disintegrate

in a snowdrift, in unblooming

deathly white roses, one by one-coral

only your lips, heavy and like a wound.


You are so soft, you portend something

of happiness, of submersion and danger

in a blue, a deep blue hour

and when it is gone, no one knows if it was.


I remind you, you are another’s,

what are you doing bearing me these late roses?

You say dreams bleach, hours wander.

what is all this: he and I and you?


‘What arises and arouses, it all comes to an end,

what happens- who exactly knows,

the chain falls shut, we are silent in these walls,

and outside is all of space, lofty and dark blue.’

Die blaue Stunde (L’heure bleue), 1890; Öl auf Leinwand. Leihgeber: Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig.
Die blaue Stunde (L’heure bleue), 1890; Öl auf Leinwand. Leihgeber: Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig.











There is an interesting analysis of this poem by the Italian translator and scholar, Stefanie Golisch at

A new translation of Benn’s poems by Michael Hofmann called “Impromtus” is reviewed at


There is also a You Tube reading at