Lutz Seiler
(Germany, 1963)   

Grey images of ore mines and post-war dearth rise from the poems of Lutz Seiler. The young poet draws upon his childhood in the East German region of Thuringia, when a repressive regime restricted people’s lives, and the mining of bismuth, tungsten and pitch blende destroyed their world. The darkest provincial backwater comes alive in his texts, in the shapes of spoil heaps, furniture wax, and asbestos.

Entire villages, such as Seiler’s home town Culmitzsch, were sacrificed with natural surroundings and all, and turned into radioactive rubbish tips. Today, the German Democratic Republic has become part of history, and the deterioration, as witnessed by Seiler, is a subject of geological and political study. Not all images, however, are black and grim. The little boy in the poems finds solace in radio and the first man in space. Yuri Gagarin, the man who defied gravity, captures his imagination. Through Gagarin we are able to reverse the melancholy mood of the poetry and to perceive the love of the dark past in the concentration of details that evoke the child’s experience so powerfully. Seiler’s poetry does not yield easily, if only because its associations and inherent syntax obey their own laws, yet it convinces by an overwhelming intensity and an entirely personal, unromantic register. The poet has worked as a bricklayer and carpenter and now lives at Wilhelmshorst in the house of the East-German Peter Huchel (1903-1981), where he manages the small museum. To Huchel, a victim of much official bullying, Seiler dedicates a programmatic poem in which he urges poetry to be alert and pay a careful ear to ‘the nervous systems of memory’. But Lutz Seiler says he does not base himself upon any poetology: ‘one can only make what one has to make’. He made his début in 1995 with the collection berührt / geführt (Oberbaum Verlag). For the poems in his collection pech & blende (Suhrkamp, 2000) he received the Kranichsteiner Literaturpreis, the Lyrikpreis Meran and the Dresdner Lyrikpreis.

© Ton Naaijkens (Translated by Ko Kooman)

[Lutz Seiler took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 2002. This text was written on that occasion.]

On Lyrikline you can find additional information (in German) about Lutz Seiler and hear him read his poems.


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