German Matters Literature Poetry

Schicksale der Expressionisten- Fates of the Expressionists by Michael Hoffmann

20131015_160458The Kaiser was the first Cousin of George V,

descended, as he was from German George,

and unhappy Albert, the hard-working Saxon Elector.

-The relaxed, navy-cut beard of the one,

hysterical, bristling moustaches of the other…….

The Expressionists were Rupert Brooke’s generation.

Their hold on life was weaker than a baby’s.

Their deaths, at whatever age, were infant mortality-

a bad joke in this century. Suddenly become sleepy,

they dropped like flies, whimsical, sizzling,

ecstatic, from a hot light-bulb. Even before the War,

George Heym and a friend died from a skating accident.

From 1914, they died in battle and of disease-

or suicide like Trakl. Drugs Alcohol Little Sister.

One was a student at Oxford and died, weeks later,

on the other side……..Later they ran from the Nazis.

Benjamin was turned back at the Spanish border-

his history of the streets of Paris unfinished-

deflected into an autistic suicide. In 1938,

Ödön von Horváth, author of naturalistic comidies,

was struck by a falling tree. In Paris.

At the time

my anthology was compiled, there were still a few left:

unexplained survivors,

psychoanalysts in the New World.



From the collection of Michael Hoffmann’s selected poems at This web-address also contains two useful reviews.