Submission No. 10

More Michael Hofmann translations of Gottfried Benn here.

Letzter Frühling, Gottfried Benn

Last Spring, Gottfried Benn, translated from the German by Michael Hofman.

My dear mysterious curator, Miriam Dym, has submitted a poem for me to riff on.

It is a short poem. You can read it for yourself (perhaps you already have?). Let’s read it together again.



First stanza: forsythias (yellow flowers)

lilacs (purple flowers)


wretchedness of each of us

dark ground…

Second stanza: Sluggish days. But…

obstacles overcome?

Contradictions: beginning or



when roses blow….


There is very little to say about this. It is rhythmic, a song about life (and death).

What can I say about the roses blowing? It is an image that conjures something very good.

The only way I can think to riff is to give you a poem I wrote last year, which Gottfried Benn’s mention of forsythias and lilacs made me remember…





Can a Poet Write a Poem

Can a poet write a poem

Without knowing the proper names of plants?

Sea-glory, bud-of-summer, tinctura mellifluvia,

Do not exist. Does it matter

If they do or not?

Why not write the way I think?

Blunt, unclassifiable

Thoughts, thoughts

Which do not include the proper names of plants.

Would this give too much away?

Sea-glory, bud-of-summer,

Tinctura mellifluvia,

After lunch I think I’ll sit in the sun

For a little while

Among the flowers.

About Tom Clyde

The best place to learn about me is to read my riffs. What could be more revealing? Cheeky, maybe, but true enough.


  1. mightsayanything

    On her blog, under April 2012, artist Mary Carlson writes, “Listening to Proust – I didn’t realize how often he speaks of flowers in ‘Remembrance of Things Past’ – and working from the flowers that are just blooming. Heaven!”

    Her image of clumsy, specific ceramic flowers (especially knowing the context of her other work) is delightful, too. Perhaps I can include it at the bottom of your post?

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