: Poetry Today :

an excerpt by John Taylor


I wish I could claim that, while riding back to the hotel on the tramway from the Frankfurt Book Fair, on a very rainy day, I had first read this poem by Klaus Merz:


Since five o’clock it’s been raining

the horizon makes

no fuss

about this.


Actually a love poem

has no need of weather



But I would be fibbing. It’s true that during my three days in Frankfurt the weather was variable (and I had no umbrella), that I would take the screeching Strassenbahn (with its steamed-up windows) back and forth to the Book Fair, and that it was indeed there that I finally began reading and translating for my own enjoyment—and now yours, I hope—this Swiss-German poet and prose writer, born in 1945, who had been on my “find-list” for more than a year.

            For more than a year? In the age of Internet book ordering? How to explain this old-fashioned eccentricity except by admitting that, at least for me, some poets and writers call for treasure hunts more than immediate access, whether electronic or otherwise. Most often, as with Merz (who was first recommended to me by a British philosopher living in Germany, then by a Swiss translator, then by a Swiss poet), writer-friends tip me off to them. Most often, they are admired by their literary compatriots, but have rarely been widely translated. I cannot find their books at the municipal and university libraries in the medium-sized French town in which I live. This is already somewhat enticing, yet there is no urgency. I do not need to read their books this afternoon or even the day after tomorrow, but I sense that our paths must cross.