‘A Handful of Water’ auf Deutsch

A German version of A Handful of Water?  Yes!  Dr Hans Günter Wachtmann has translated every single poem in the collection.

He has also included footnotes for a number of them as well as pictures of the places.  Dr Wachtmann is an expert in Japanese sculpture and history of art.

Image   Image

I had no idea he was doing this, beavering away over there in Germany (and it must have been many hours)  … until last week when I was presented with his manuscript. This is what he wrote:

‘I tried to do my very best, but……to translate poems: that is not an easy task and not possible without ‘poetic license’. Several expressions could only be understood by intuition. But that is I think self-evident. The only reason to translate was my pleasure reading ‘A Handful of Water’. I wanted to conceive word and meaning, and so I started my exploration. What I found was a poetic treasure. I am going to share it with friends.’

So … here are some of his translations. I am sure they probably read better in German than in English. They look chiselled and honed in German, like rows of precious objects kept safe in a vitrine.


In kleinen Stellen – in Ellbogengelenken,

Fingernägeln, den schmalen Winkeln

zwischen Auge und Lid

oder zwischen Philtrum und Mund;

unter meiner Haut

in Aorta, Eingeweiden, Bronchien,

stecken Züge,

die in mir mit dem Älterwerden


doch noch enthalten sie das Muster

dessen, was du einst warst.

Stag oak

Im Dickicht steht ein Rudel

von  Bäumen – gesprosste Zweige,

fahl wie Geweihe in der Dämmerung.

Mit Herzklopfen

bewegen sie sich leichtfüßig

im gefallenen Laub vom letzten Jahr.

Ihre Ohren sind wie Schatten, die zucken,

wenn ein Windstoß lockere

Blatthülsen herunter weht.

Ein Haufen ermatteten Farns,

ein rotbraunes Fell mit angehaltenem Atem,

im Dickicht

nur um eines Haares Breite

von der kugelförmigen Wolke

aus Pusteblumen entfernt.

Der Eulenmond öffnet sein Auge.


Als die heraufziehende Nacht den Waldrand erreicht,

sich weiter über das offene Feld ergießt

und gelbbraune Eulen einander und dem Mond wehklagen,

taucht wie bestellt und gleich den Tieren,

die mit Duft ihr Gebiet markieren,

sein unter Nesseln schnüffelnder Rüssel auf,

nutzt das schummerige Zwielicht

und trottet am Rande auf stillen Pfoten hin und her;

die Flanken schimmern silbrig wie dunkelnde Gräser, und aufmerksam auf nächtliche Grunzlaute achtend

schlürft er die Innereien.

I do so like all those schnuffelnder and Russel, schummerige, schimmern words in particular!

A thousand thank you-s to Dr Wachtmann.  Was it Elliot who said that every poem is really at least two poems …the one the writer wrote and the one the reader reads? In translation, Handful seems to be expanding into other incarnations. I am knocked for six.

About Rebecca Gethin

Rebecca Gethin is a poet and a novelist. Cinnamon Press published her third collection, All the Time in the World in 2017. Another pamphlet is forthcoming with Three Drops Press. Her second novel, What the horses heard, was published by Cinnamon Press in May 2014. Her second poetry collection - A Handful of Water - was published by Cinnamon in 2013. Her first - River is the Plural of Rain - was published by Oversteps Books in 2009. Her novel Liar Dice won the Cinnamon Press Novel Writing Award in 2010 and was published in 2011. She lives on Dartmoor and writes occasional pieces about wildlife and nature. Her poems appear in a variety of poetry magazines and in several anthologies.
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11 Responses to ‘A Handful of Water’ auf Deutsch

  1. Wow – that’s fantastic, Becky! You must be thrilled.

  2. simon838 says:

    Brilliant. Perhaps University Salzburg would publish the German version 🙂 ?

  3. What a compliment. I’m not at all surprised. I love the book too. You must be thrilled.

  4. E.E. Nobbs says:

    I am so very pleased for you, Becky. And I doff my hat to Dr. Hans Günter Wachtmann for finding a way to extend your words and poetry.

  5. eleanorjvale says:

    Wow! what a huge compliment, and from you great trust in his interpretations – well done Becky!


  6. sharonmccallum says:

    Wow!!! That’s amazing Becky, what a gift. I don’t understand a word of the translations (oh wait, I do I do – kleinen!) but they do look like precious objects, they do – glinting and twinkling under all these umlauts. I’m so pleased for you. sxxx

      Sharon Black Gardoussel 30940 St Andre de Valborgne France 09 64 283271

    Gardoussel Retreat: http://www.gardoussel.com Writing Courses: http://www.abricreativewriting.com My Poetry: http://www.sharonblack.co.uk 

  7. Caroline says:

    This is so lovely, particularly as you didn’t know he was working on translating your poems into German – such a gift.

  8. Very nicely done – and what a compliment!

  9. sharonmccallum says:

    Thanks Becky – wishing you a fab 2014 too. sxxx

      Sharon Black Gardoussel 30940 St Andre de Valborgne France 09 64 283271

    Gardoussel Retreat: http://www.gardoussel.com Writing Courses: http://www.abricreativewriting.com My Poetry: http://www.sharonblack.co.uk 

    ________________________________ From: Alex Duncan To: Sharon Black Sent: Friday, January 3, 2014 11:23 AM Subject: Fwd: Re: Happy New Year!

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