Karl Krolow

Visitor’s Coming
September 15, 2012 Krolow Karl

Visitor’s Coming


I’ve laid out

in order

what I need:

a solid mantrap, pieces

of cake, beer warmer,

these favored

little things of hospitality,

especially pretty knives,

old photos, stained and damp,

a pocket pistol under the table cloth

in its proper place,

spot remover, cold

venison pie,

a pyramid of glasses,

a vigilant mantle-clock,

a striped cat

for flattering.

I’m sitting

among my belongings,

happy to be able

to make them useful.

When the doorbell rings,

I’ll blacken the coffee.

Slowly a newspaper

turns its pages

to the obituaries.

That’s due to the draft.

It comes from the door

that I open.




Besuch Kommt


Ich habe mir

zurecht gelegt,

was ich brauche:

eine gediegene Fußangel, Kuchen-

stücke, Bierwärmer,

diese beliebten

Kleinigkeiten der Gastfreundschaft,

besonders schöbn Messer,

alte Fotos, stockfleckig,

ein Terzerol unter dem Tischtuch

an geeigneter Stelle,

Fleckenreiniger, kalte

Pastete vom Wild,

eine Gläserpyramide,

eine aufmerksame Stutzuhr,

eine gestreifte Katze

zum Schmeicheln.

Ich sitze

unter meinen Habseligkeiten,

glücklich, sie dienstbar

machen zu können.

Wenn es läutet,

schwärze ich den Kaffee.

Langsam blättert

eine Zeitung

ihre Todesanzeigen auf.

Das macht die Zugluft.

Sie kommt von der Tür,

die ich öffne.






Translator: Stuart Friebert, for whose first book of German poems Krolow wrote the afterword, had the great privilege of knowing and working with Krolow on a number of occasions.  Enjoying “a lifetime right to translate” Krolow, he has published two volumes of Selected Poems (On Account Of: Selected Poems of Karl Krolow and What’ll We Do With This Life?: Selected Poems by Karl Krolow, 1950-1990, and is gathering together a third volume, from among the more than 500 other Krolow poems he’s published over the years. The author of a dozen books of his own poems, and a number of stories, memoir pieces, essays, and anthologies, Friebert has published six other volumes: co-translations, from the Czech, Italian, Romanian, and Lithuanian.

Karl Krolow (1915-1998) was one of the giants of German Letters of  the last century.  He made his mark early and often, with poems, translations, and criticism, later adding prose to his staggering output, which includes more than thirty volumes of poems, among them several Selected tomes, each with a life and mind of its own.  Ranging across many subjects and themes, in a variety of voices, at once abstract and detached, but so focused and concentrated that what is observed and spoken becomes intimate, even voyeuristic, but never without illuminating basic human wants, needs, and values.  Krolow was fond of quoting Flaubert, who most wanted to write a book about nothing, which would wind up being about everything. That sums up Krolow’s own ways with words.  As a critic, a judge of literary competitions, as president of The German Academy of Language and Literature (1972-1975), he was generous to a fault regarding the work of others.  Almost no writer who lived during Krolow’s time was without his direct or indirect support.