Elke Erb: Mountains in Berlin


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Elke Erb shares with other poets from the former GDR an emphasis on the concrete, but her way of presenting it is unlike anybody else’s, East or West. Her complex syntax gave the lie to official simplicites, and the close observation of everyday occurrences or social structures leaped off the page into the unexpected and surreal.

Elke Erb lives in what used to be East Berlin. She has published ten volumes of poetry, most recently Mensch sein, nicht, a book of essays and translations from the Russian (Zvetaeva, Achmatova, Chlebnikov, Essenin, Pushkin, etc.). Her many honors include the “F. C. Weisskopf” prize of the Academy of the Arts in Berlin (1999).

“The thoughts and incidents of these prose poems take place in a childlike vision, but childlike in the sense that incomprehensibility is accepted… they have no need of excess…. Her unassuming style is deceptive–with a slight shift, a simple idea can become slippery.”

–Marc Lowenthal, The Boston Book Review

“mordant and funny”

–Eliot Weinberger, American Poet

“Short, surreal, highly enigmatic poem-narratives that leave readers with the impression that the world is a far stranger place than we ever understood.”

–Mark Wallace, Washington Review

“With Kleist’s A n e k d o t e n in mind, Erb charts a radical path to the ordinary.”

–John Taylor, The Prose Poem

“Poetry as an attempt to dynamite petrified structures…, poetry as incessant reflective effort…, poetry as childlike utopia. Three irreconcilable impulses, perhaps. But perhaps great works (those that do not talk away contradictions) come about only in the meeting of the irreconcilable.”

–Urs Allemann