Poet in the Archives: Michael Hamburger

Poet in the archives

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The life, work and legacy of poet-translator Michael Hamburger

This event is preceded by a drinks reception from 18.15 in the Knowledge Centre Eliot Room which all ticketholders are welcome to attend.

An evening of discussion and readings on the life, work and legacy of poet-translator Michael Hamburger between translators Karen Leeder, Iain Galbraith and Jen Calleja.

Michael Hamburger, whose archive came to the British Library after his death in 2007, translated many of the great German and Austrian writers – among them, Friedrich Hölderlin, Rainer Maria Rilke, Paul Celan, Georg Trakl and W G Sebald, – and is a major poet in his own right. Born in Berlin in 1924 to German Jewish parents, his family fled Nazi Germany for Britain in 1933, and he went on to become a crucial figure in British and German letters. 

This evening of readings and discussion celebrates the life, work and legacy of Hamburger, with contemporary poets and translators exploring the variety of ways they’ve engaged with his work, and how he’s inspired their own.

Iain Galbraith is a Scottish poet and translator who lives in Germany. His poems have appeared in New Writing Scotland, Poetry Review, Irish Pages, The Times Literary Supplement and PN Review, and his first collection, The True Height of the Ear, was published by Arc in 2018. His most recent translations include Jan Wagner's Self-portrait with a Swarm of Bees (Arc, 2015), Esther Kinsky's River (Fitzcarraldo, 2017) and, in German, selections by John Burnside (2016 and 2018) and Alice Oswald (2018). He has received several prizes for his work. Iain was acquainted with Michael Hamburger and has edited his essays and poetry in German translation, published in two volumes in 2007 and 2009 by Folio Verlag.

Karen Leeder is a writer, translator and academic, and teaches German at New College, Oxford where she works especially on modern poetry. She translates contemporary German literature into English, including works by Volker Braun, Michael Krüger and Raoul Schrott. Her most recent translations include Evelyn Schlag’s All Under One Roof (Carcanet) which was the PBS summer translation selection (2018), and she was awarded an English PEN award and an American PEN/Heim award for her translations from Ulrike Almut Sandig’s Dickicht (Thick of it) which appeared with Seagull in 2018. Karen has written and lectures on Hamburger’s poetry, most recently in the context of lateness.

Jen Calleja is a writer and literary translator from German. She has translated literary fiction, non-fiction and poetry by writers including Wim Wenders, Marion Poschmann, Kerstin Hensel, Michelle Steinbeck and Gregor Hens, and her translations have featured in The New Yorker and The White Review. Her debut poetry collection Serious Justice was published by Test Centre in 2016 and she has a collection of short fiction forthcoming in 2019. She was the inaugural Translator in Residence at the British Library and formerly Translator in Residence at the Austrian Cultural Forum London. Jen reads from and discusses her pamphlet of original poems inspired by the Michael Hamburger archive and written as part of her role as Translator in Residence at the British Library.

This event is a collaboration between the Ingeborg Bachmann Centre, the Open World Research Initiative: Cross-Language Dynamics: Reshaping Community, the Institute of Modern Languages Research, and the British Library.


Image: Iain Galbraith by Peter Thompson, Karen Leeder, Jen Calleja by Robin Christian


Name: Poet in the Archives: Michael Hamburger
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Price: Full Price: £10.00
Member: £10.00
Senior 60+: £8.00
Student: £7.00
Registered Unemployed: £7.00
Under 18: £7.00
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546