Secret Letter

by Erika Burkart

$15.00

Poetry from Červená Barva Press
Translated from German

Swiss poet Erika Burkart (1922-2010) has been compared to the likes of Ingeborg Bachmann, Friedericke Mayröcker, and Rainer Maria Rilke. During the latter half of her lifetime, the Swiss literary establishment perceived her not only as the grande dame of German-Swiss poetry, but also as an elusive, metaphysical, at times eccentric enigma of contemporary German-language literature.

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ISBN: 978-0-9966894-3-4 | 83 Pages | Paperback
Červená Barva Press, 2016

Born in Aarau, Switzerland, Burkart published over 24 collections of poetry and nine prose works, writing for the most part in the house of her childhood (the former summer house of the Prince-Abbot of Muri), Haus Kapf in Althäusern, Aargau, which was run as a tavern by Erika’s parents.

Burkart received numerous literary prizes during her lifetime, including the Johann-Peter-Hebel-Preis (1978), the Wolfgang-Amadeus-Mozart- Preis (1990), the Joseph-Breitbach-Preis (2002), and the Gottfried-Keller-Preis (1992). To date, she is the only woman ever to have been awarded Switzerland’s highest literary prize, the Grosser Schiller-Preis (2005).

Born in Hong Kong, translator Marc Vincenz is the author of nine collections of original poetry; his latest are This Wasted Land, and Its Chymical Illuminations (Lavender Ink, 2015), Becoming the Sound of Bees (Ampersand Books, 2015) and Sibylline, a book-length poem (Ampersand Books, 2016). The Washington Independent Review of Books recently called Vincenz “[a] peripatetic linguist… [he] prospers through travel like a psychoactive medicine man. Each poem is an open environment where anything can happen-a ceremony of advanced thinking-where a pilgrim of great altitudes accepts life’s vagaries.” Vincenz is also the translator of many German-language poets, including the Herman Hesse Prize winner, Klaus Merz, Werner Lutz, Erika Burkart, Alexander Xaver Gwerder, Robert Walser and Jürg Amman, and has published ten collections of translations-the latest is A Late Recognition of the Signs by Erika Burkart. His translation of Klaus Merz’s collection Unexpected Development, was a finalist for the 2015 Cliff Becker Book Translation Prize and will be published by White Pine Press in 2018. He has received several grants from the Swiss Arts Council and a fellowship from the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin. His own work has been translated into German, Russian, Romanian, French, Icelandic and Chinese; Bucharest’s Tractus Arte Press released a Romanian translation of his collection The Propaganda Factory, at the 2015 Bucharest Book Fair. He is International Editor of Plume, Executive Editor of MadHat Press, and Plume Editions, Co-Editor of Fulcrum, and lives and writes in Western Massachusetts. Recent and forthcoming publications include The Nation, Ploughshares, Guernica, Washington Square Review, The Common and World Literature Today.


“Erika Burkart often evokes darkness, all the while “recu[ing] / fragments of images / from the dark chambers”-and these bits and pieces of the world, which she gathers with such care, gleam with a lasting, even healing light in her work. A precise and loving observer of nature, this major Swiss poet is especially sensitive to the question of how perceptions can be written down to “find [her]self / […]-a language / no one knows anymore.” For her, words raise no insurmountable barriers between the self and outside reality, but rather encourage her, as it were, to examine how one might more fully live.”

“With Secret Letter, Marc Vincenz has gracefully and accurately rendered one of the last and most important books written by this philosophically minded poet. Hats off to him, for these full-fledged English poems express all the discreet music, subtle emotions, and thought-provoking qualities of the originals.”
-John Taylor, poet, translator of Philippe Jaccottet, Jacques Dupin, and Jose-Flore Tappy

Secret Letter by Erika Burkart offers lyrics so pristine and resonant in English that it’s hard to fathom that these are translations. Marc Vincenz has done a great service for English-speaking, opening our shutters, our vistas onto the light- rich work of this amazing poet. Each poem mirrors creation and the birth of poetical language, without affectation or even extra syllables. The ensemble remins us of why we turned to poetry in the first place, for its spare, lyrical power, its shock of beauty, emotion, and insight.”
-Marilyn Kallet, poet, translator of Paul Eluard, Benjamin Peret, and Chantal Bizzini

“Burkart’s poems leave behind much more than a fleeting trace in the snow. Her delicate poetic footsteps have long since inscribed themselves in the memory of nature and her readers.”
-Deutschlandfunk

“Erika Burkart possessed something like a second sight. She saw people, nature, the world, with both an inner and outer vision.”
-Bieler Tagblatt

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