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If I Only Knew by Nelly Sachs, trans. by Jean Boase-Beier

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Known as a poet who spoke of the history and suffering of the Jewish people, Nelly Sachs was, at the time she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966, highly regarded in her native Germany, frequently being described as a poet of reconciliation and healing, although whether she was is open to debate. Because of the complexity of her later poetry, she is often regarded as a difficult poet, but her work is not difficult to understand if it is read against the backdrop of the events that gave rise to it, and in the context of her own development as a poet. Jean Boase-Beier’s striking translations focus on what she sees as Sachs’ very particular voice, one of outrage, despair, and grief, but also of enquiry, of irony, and often of straightforward anger.

This chapbook, by presenting a small number of poems from throughout the poet’s main writing years and providing some general background together with short contextual explanations to individual poems, gives new readers a reason to read Nelly Sachs.

Arc Publications

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