There were two ways to respond to that unbearable reality, wrote Rose Ausländer thirty years later, remembering the Chernovtsy ghetto under the Nazis.
Either one could despair entirely, or one could occupy a different, spiritual reality. And while we waited for death, there were those of us who dwelt in dreamwords — our traumatic home amidst our homelessness. To write was to live.
That experience remained as the dark undertow of all the poetry Ausländer wrote, though she rarely addressed it explicitly. Most of her poetry dated from the years between her move to Düsseldorf in 1965 and her death in 1988. That late poetry, much of which is represented in this collection, came as leaves to the tree. It brought her prizes and acclaim and established her extraordinary simplicity as a distinctive voice in German poetry. By the end of her life, she was recognised as one of the truest poets of post-War Germany, a woman and a witness in whom the dark and the light, the ashes and the hope, are so finely balanced that we hold our breath as we read.
Published January 1995