13. ‘An extended passport application’ – the poetry of Michael Hofmann

Michael Hofmann
“It’s almost as though my poetry is an extended passport application… It’s an attempt to be naturalized. I think I’ve failed to be naturalized and therefore there is this German residue about things. It’s something I feel haunted by…”

I’m delighted that the first poet to appear on Podularity is Michael Hofmann. I’ve known Michael for several years and greatly admire his work as a translator, but his poetry has been a comparatively recent – and very pleasurable – discovery for me.

George Szirtes, reviewing Michael’s Selected Poems in the Guardian recently, said of his work:

‘A Michael Hofmann poem is now a rare, strange, much valued item. Strange because, at first glance, many of the poems seem no more than frayed notes concerning a mood between depression and despair; but then something in that fraying catches at you, either some odd shift in register, or maybe just a sense that as your eyes are blithely passing over the words suddenly a hole has opened up beneath them and you are falling through the language, into a world of cries.’

Selected PoemsIn the programme we talk about Michael’s relationship with the German and English languages and how he moves between the two; his relationship with his late father, the German novelist, Gert Hofmann, which forms the explicit or implicit subject matter of much of his poetry: ‘these two men meet up to divide the world between them and this is how it goes: my father gets prose in German and I get poetry in English, and we each go away feeling happy’ and his fondness for depicting interiors, which in his poetry appear as ‘one’s exoskeleton, the place where one hangs one’s trophies or displays one’s wounds’.

In the course of the podcast he also reads several pieces from his recently published Selected Poems.

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