Editor's Note

There’s an Eisensteinian effect in Helminger’s poetry. Landscapes move like a bird’s eye, cutting abruptly to extreme close-ups of conversations or other scenes. Whereas the events are real and concrete, and the imagery evocative, the poems point to something beyond themselves, including to their own dissolution. Helminger calls it ‘synapse zapping’ to express how the poems recreate the moment of experience. New thoughts begin in the middle of a line, the jumps marked like a sentence. The translations leverage the style of the German poems. A good example is the poem “Trip to Greece” where enjambment is doing what is more frequently possible in the German i.e. each line has significance while the sentence maintains its integrity.

— Mani Rao
The Bombay Literary Magazine

Translator's Note

Guy Helminger’s volumes of poetry display conceptual continuity. They build on one another. In the beginning, the recreation of a moment of experience and the associated process of thought formation took centre stage. But in subsequent books, the poems increasingly moved towards the ultimate outcome of this “synapse zapping” and, in the most recent volumes, are wholly devoted to the fully accomplished outcome of this reconstruction. This results in verses replete with haunting imagery which, despite the concrete nature of events, move within a field of intuition and hence point beyond themselves to established references as well as to spaces as yet unknown. This poetry is volatile, yet also narrational and balladic. But at its heart is always the haptics of experience. The finding of language always incorporates its dissolution, because what is known encompasses so much that is unknown, and that, in turn, must now be explored in a new step. Or as Guy Helminger puts it: “The crazy thing about poetry is its reflectiveness”.

— Delphine Lettau
The Bombay Literary Magazine

What approaches


is a towering summer with trees

on the bell mound that people here


call Saturday choir The well-hung

light in the barns winds its way into the


leftover hay flickering with forgotten

opinions West of the village the woods


the furrowed thinking of the tree bark

and further on the town with the triggering


moon liquids that we drink in our sleep

with their humming for land


At the stable door towards evening this

boy flutters with the wind-pale hope of his


parents like an alien grain planted too deep

in the field In front of the shelf with the


book of poetry he supposedly asked his father

“Which of these verses are we?”


One with silence full of cashew nuts and

the rustle of rarely worn


clothes Or your livestock has bolted

to where the cinema grows into the landscape


I might well have answered

because I was at peace with the evenings that quietly


make off into the bushes





There was crunching when she broke the bread

The sparrows had withdrawn


yet now our bicycles stood in front

the door chains filled with landscapes From


them the days we had travelled

turned like obscene ink sketches of our


devotion Since we found a shell at that

bakery we have believed in


the water inside us in the spray like

icing sugar on our heartburn


that the pain is good for something

even if only to sing psalms She


however speaks our names like hot

pastries and we feel the oven inside


us that fires ceramic ashtrays from

all the troublesome souls The very


day after, the temp raises a

Snow White cake as if remembering


her first communion Beneath our

gaze: the dry eternity of a


shaven armpit



Love Poem


It is loud in the economy of the stars

with rims and wind turbines on the shelves

of the night We were lying in our bed at

eye level with the cats My heart


was shaped like a mountain on its slope

a cherry plum tree like a woman in a

polka-dot dress What sounded as if she were laughing

was a fake excerpt from the world of birds


The dunnocks by contrast sang the things

between the birches: sound nomads that

clung to the leaves and banished

danger With a cloth of field we dried


our bodies and grew into the weary

year outside the rooms I spoke

to her in my sleep so she would not

become the house in which we lived


In the morning the cherry trees cited

the colour of her lipstick The wasps

stupid as a box of rocks she had to remove

from her mouth at breakfast



Trip to Greece


The house hosted two cats with

fur patterns showing the portraits of the deceased


owners In her opinion that was a bad

omen in mine art The olive trees too


divided us the gill smile of the

trained sales assistant wrapping the mackerel


in tales of the weather

the pomegranates that hung biblically in the


chatty afternoons and were to her liking

Once she threw a Coke bottle


at me Such romantic skirmishes leave

unexploded ordinance and we promptly threatened


to internalise took on the colour of the beach

beneath our bodies grew dark


as the sunsets of cinnamon and

petroleum On the nineteenth day a


seagull with two tiny beats of its wing drove

the shard-smooth silence back into the sea


To this day we wait beside our wishes

that stand shelved like atlases for a


repetition tinted plastic glasses

both drinkers I would say



I have never been to Tokyo


My hair is the colour of

pickled ginger my skin pale

as rice paper


when the wind thrums over it

in the lightly lignified shrubs


Mishima on the bamboo shelf and the

flower bed laid out as a haiku

within reach


Ever since I bought a samurai sword

well-cut Japanologists have

shown an interest in me


Image credits: Lauren Litwa. Night Barn Painting, Oil on Wood. 101.6 W x 76.2 H x 5.1 D cm.

Lauren Litwa likes to paint barns. It will be recalled that E. B. White also made the barn one of the central metaphors of Charlotte’s Web.  The novel ends with a recap of all the things that can be found in a barn, and ends with: “It was the best place to be,” thought Wilbur, this warm delicious cellar, with the garrulous geese, the changing seasons, the heat of the sun, the passage of swallows, the nearness of rats, the sameness of sheep, the love of spiders, the smell of manure, and the glory of everything.”  The glory of everything. Lauren Litwa’s painting and Guy Helminger’s poems both reminded us of this truth whose telling lies just beyond the speaking tongue. We felt they belonged together.


Guy Helminger was born in 1963 in Esch / Alzette (Luxemburg) and studied German Literature and Philosophy in Luxemburg, Heidelberg and Cologne. Helminger is the author of several books in prose, poetry, travel journals, books for children, screenplays, and plays for radio and theater. He co-hosts the “Literary Salon International” in Cologne, where he lives.


Delphine Lettau is a bilingual dual national who attended university in Cologne, Oxford (LMH) and London, reading English language and literature and general linguistics. Following a brief stint teaching English language and literature to university level, she worked in BBC radio (London) as a presenter, script writer and producer and in TV for Deutsche Welle, Transtel and WDR (Cologne). Her freelance translation career took her briefly to L.A., where she worked on film scripts in pre-production. Generally, the focus is on the spoken word and (especially Luxembourgish) poetry, with more recent ventures into children’s books and academic studies.

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