Existing Translations

The poetry of Gottfried Benn (German editions)


Gesammelte Werke in vier Bände, edited by Dieter Wellersdorf (Stuttgart: Klett Cotta, 1958-1961). Volume 3 contains the poetry.


Gesammelte Werke in der Fassung der Erstdrucke. 4 vols. Edited by Bruno Hillebrand

(Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Verlag, 1990). Volume 1 contains the poetry.


Sämtliche Werke. Stuttgarter Ausgabe. 7 vols. Eds. Gerhard Schuster and Holger Hof (Stuttgart, Klett-Cotta, 1986-2000). Volumes 1 and 2 contain the poetry.


I have chosen to work with the edition by Bruno Hillebrand, because this alone gives the poems as they were published in their chronological sequence, and is without the process of selection that the other editions prefer.


The poetry of Gottfried Benn (English editions):


There is no complete edition of Benn’s poetry in English, but there are a number of selections. They are:

J.M. Ritchie, Gottfried Benn: The Unreconstructed Expressionist (London: Oswald Wolff, 1972). A short study of the author, which includes a number of translations of his prose and twenty poems.

Primal Vision: Selected Writings, edited E.B. Ashton (London: Marion Boyars, 1976). This contains poems (as well as extensive excerpts from Benn’s prose work) translated by a number of translators including Babette Deutsch, Richard Exner, Michael Hamburger, Christopher Middleton and Ashton himself. Thirty two poems have been translated here.

Gottfried Benn: Prose, Essays, Poems, edited by Volkar Sandar. Foreword by E.B. Ashton. Introduction by Reinhard Paul Becker (New York: Continuum, 1987). Translations of previously untranslated Benn poems by Christopher Middleton and Michael Hamburger, as well as a number by younger Benn translators, such as Karl F. Ross, Alexandra Chciuk-Celt and Joseph B. Dallett.

Gottfried Benn Poems: 1937-1947, translated with an Introduction by Simona Draghici (Washington DC: Plutarch Press, 1991). As the title indicates, this is a selection of poems from Benn’s middle to late work only.

Gottfried Benn: Selected Poems and Prose, edited and translated by David Paisey (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 2013). A wide-ranging selection of Benn’s poems and prose. In all, one hundred and twenty poems are translated.

Impromptus: Selected Poems, translated by Michael Hofmann (London: Faber & Faber, 2013). A smaller selection of Benn’s poems, largely from his later work, but importantly including a number of his uncollected and posthumous poems. In all, seventy two poems are translated.


A number of Benn’s poems have appeared in translation both in journals and on websites. They are too numerous to mention (although they rarely involve the translation of more than one poem). Of particular note, however, is the work of Edgar Lohner and Cid Corman from the 1950s. Lohner (a native German who was professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard) made contact with Benn in 1952, and subsequently visited him in Germany. Lohner had hoped to translate Benn’s entire poetic oeuvre but, unfortunately, died leaving his project unfinished. He had, however, already published a cross-section of Benn’s poems in a series of small journals. As a testimony to the efforts of Benn’s first translator, I give the details of these publications here:


Contact (Canada), vol. 1, nr. 3, pp. 13-14 = “Negro Bride”, “Requiem”, “Forsaken Ego”.

New Mexico Quarterly (Summer 1952), pp. 179-186 = “Tiny Aster”, “Beautiful Youth”, “Full Circle”, “Late”, “A Word”, “Only When”, “Restaurant”, “Young Hebbel”.

Four Winds (Summer 1952), pp. 24-27 = “Man and Woman go through a Cancer Ward”, “Subway”.

Origin VII, pp. 144-147. = “Caryatid”, “Valse Triste”, “Quaternary”.

Origin X (Summer 1953), pp. 105-108 = “Foreign Minister”, “Actuality”, “Only Two Factors”

Shenandoah, vol. V, no.1 (Winter 1953), p. 55 = “Inapplicable”.

Western Review, 3, XVII, pp. 179-184 = “St. Petersburg Midcentury (19th)”.

Quarterly Review of Literature, vol, VII, pp. 290-297 = “September”, “Orpheus’ Death”, “Blue Hour”, “Thalassal Regression”, “Ah, the distant land”, “A Hymn”.

Wake 12 (January 1954), pp. 145-147 = “Express Train”, “Negro Bride”, “Requiem”, “Mother”.

Contact 5 (November 1952-January 1953), p. 485 = “English Cafe”, “Synthesis”, “Mother”.

Contact 9 (January-April 1954), pp. 13-14 = “Finale”, “To go living ideally”.

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