Elke Erb: The Up and Down of Feet


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Elke Erb’s early books showed her eye “fixed on the molecule” of life in the German Democratic Republic. Yet her close observation of social structures and daily occurrences leaped off the page into the unadapted and unpredictable. And her complex perception confounded ideological simplicities.

Burning Deck has published a selection from these books (1975-1988) as Mountains in Berlin(1995).

Since then, her poems have more and more presented themselves as in the process of becoming while remaining intense and precise. They document the movement of thought, her incessant critical attention and reflection, her testing of possibilities. They often cross genre borders into commentary etc. One of her books bears the subtitle: “Poems and Other Journal Entries.”

Her curiosity about the world and its possibilities is as sharp-eyed as ever. But it has widened to include an almost obsessive interest in the adventure of language. Entire poems may circle around a particular word or sound structure. Her pleasure in words is infectious.

Elke Erb lives in Berlin and is one of the most noted German poets. She has published more than twenty volumes of poetry. Also a book of essays and many translations from the Russian (Tsvetaeva, Achmatova, Chlebnikov, etc.). Her many honors include, most recently, the Georg-Trakl- and the Ernst-Jandl-prizes.