translated by Peter Constantine


To a Poltergeist in the Bedroom’s Northward Wall

Your senile hollow knocking has
remained ever the same, no
development, no punctuation,
you repeat yourself day after day,
night after gray sleepless night,
always with the same beat, as if you were a heart
seeking to strike sparks on the stones
of the old house. A heart knocking softly
with knuckles on the incisors
of the future, seeking an entrance
or a reason to stay.


The Theory of Literature

An infinite number of monkeys
with typewriters, it is said,
would ultimately produce the complete
works of Shakespeare.

And shortly thereafter the works of Dante,
then Joyce, Goethe, Kafka,

Then, after some months,
a few personal writings about things such as
paws, trees, or
perpetual repetition.
Then a little Dostoevsky again
followed by the whole of Shakespeare all over from the beginning,
line by line.

And in between a few pieces about trees,
paws, bananas,
and perpetual repetition.   


Translations from the German
By Peter Constantine


Clemens Setz (b. 1982, Graz) is an Austrian poet, novelist, playwright, and translator. He is the author of the novels Söhne und Planeten (2007; Sons and planets) and Die Frequenzen (2009; Frequencies). His play Mauerschau (View from the walls) premiered in Vienna’s Schauspielhaus. He was awarded the Ernst-Willner-Preis (2008), the Bremer Literaturpreis (2010), and the Outstanding Artist Award (2010). His novel Die Frequenzen was shortlisted for the German Book Prize in 2009 (see Ross Benjamin’s review on page 65 of the print edition). In his recent interview with Peter Constantine, Setz discusses the in-betweenness of writing both poetry and fiction.

Peter Constantine’s recent translations include works by Augustine, Rousseau, Machiavelli, and Tolstoy; he is a Guggenheim Fellow and was awarded the PEN Translation Prize for Six Early Stories, by Thomas Mann, and the National Translation Award for The Undiscovered Chekhov. He is Professor of Translation Studies at the University of Connecticut.