Klänge (Sounds) was Kandinsky’s only poetry publication—a collection of prose poems, accompanied by 56 of his own inimitable woodcuts, 12 of them in colour. It appeared in late 1912, or early 1913 (the exact date is uncertain) from the Munich publishing house, Piper, and thus came at a crucial time in Kandinsky’s artistic life: just after he had made the great breakthrough into abstraction, and likewise just after the publication of the seminal text, Über das Geistige in der Kunst (Concerning the Spiritual in Art). These were not the only poems that he wrote—others are preserved in the artist’s papers—but these are the ones he chose to publish, and in a lavish edition. The poems were written in German, his second language—although one should be aware that he had spoken German from an early age, having learned it from a grandmother who was a native speaker. By the time of publication he had also been living in Germany for over fifteen years. The book created a stir in the art community, and some of the poems were published in Moscow in pirate translations, much to the author’s annoyance; in Zurich meanwhile, the Dada artists and writers gave public readings of the work.
This is the first English translation to be accompanied by all of the original woodcuts, as they were presented in the first edition.