My German Dictionary
Author: Katherine Holander
Publisher: The Waywiser Press (2019)
My German Dictionary, which was awarded the 14th annual Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize by former USA Poet Laureate Charles Wright, is a guide to an idiosyncratic interior country, a map of the experience of absorbing and being absorbed by Central European language, culture, aesthetics, and history. It is a catalogue of small beloved things inflected by massive horrors. The poems are home to and haunted by Franz Marc's horses, ETA Hoffmann's tales, the Great War, Bertolt Brecht, Rosa Luxemburg, enchanted bears, Weimar Berlin, and vanished relatives, along with an entire alphabet of mishearings, mnemonics, and valentines for the German language. These are the poems of an historian wrestling with mastery of the unmasterable, the histories in miniature of a poet.
"A book of startling, radiant images that ferry the poems to their destinations of discovery and illumination...[T]hese are wise and brave poems, from a wise and brave hand, A to Z. They go to the heart of the heart of the matter, whatever it is, and wherever it is. Like sharp little picks, they de-ice and reveal...[A] beautiful and––it seems to me––necessary book."
"Abundant imagination, as heartbreaking and wild as folk tales. Informed historical understanding. Melody in the sentences and lines. Each of these is a rare poetic gift, and all three combined animate Katherine Hollander's My German Dictionary. These poems with their lexicon of grief confront the terrors of history in a way that is brooding, clear-eyed, and blessedly inventive."