Local poet Katherine Hollander presents her award-winning collection My German Dictionary, joined by fellow local poet Tanya Larkin.
My German Dictionary, which was awarded the 14th annual Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize by former USA Poet Laureate Charles Wright, is a guide to an idiosyncratic interior country, a map of the experience of absorbing and being absorbed by Central European language, culture, aesthetics, and history. It is a catalogue of small beloved things inflected by massive horrors. The poems are home to and haunted by Franz Marc’s horses, ETA Hoffmann’s tales, the Great War, Bertolt Brecht, Rosa Luxemburg, enchanted bears, Weimar Berlin, and vanished relatives, along with an entire alphabet of mishearings, mnemonics, and valentines for the German language. These are the poems of an historian wrestling with mastery of the unmasterable, the histories in miniature of a poet.
“A book of startling, radiant images that ferry the poems to their destinations of discovery and illumination… T]hese are wise and brave poems, from a wise and brave hand, A to Z. They go to the heart of the heart of the matter, whatever it is, and wherever it is. Like sharp little picks, they de-ice and reveal… A] beautiful and–it seems to me–necessary book.”–Charles Wright (from the Foreword)
“Abundant imagination, as heartbreaking and wild as folk tales. Informed historical understanding. Melody in the sentences and lines. Each of these is a rare poetic gift, and all three combined animate Katherine Hollander’s MY GERMAN DICTIONARY. These poems with their lexicon of grief confront the terrors of history in a way that is brooding, clear-eyed, and blessedly inventive.”–Robert Pinsky.
Katherine Hollander is a poet and historian. Born in Boston, she was educated at Marlboro College and Boston University, where she earned an MA in poetry and a PhD in history. Her poems, criticism, and scholarly work have appeared in Literary Imagination, Slate, Hunger Mountain, Tupelo Quarterly, The Brecht Yearbook, New German Critique, and elsewhere. She has taught European history at Simmons College, the University of Hartford, and Colby College, creative writing at Boston University, and serves as a Reader for Sugar House Review. Alongside writing poems, she is at work on a historical monograph about a community of German-speaking intellectuals in exile, and translating the childhood memoirs of Margarete Steffin.
Tanya Larkin was born in Montebelluna, Italy and raised in Pennsylvania. She attended Columbia University and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and is a recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts and teaches at The New England Institute of Art. Her poems have appeared in Conduit, Quarterly West, Ploughshares, and elsewhere.
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.