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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry


In Time's Rift

Ernst Meister

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To purchase In Time's Rift

Title: In Time's Rift
Author: Ernst Meister
Genre: Poetry
Written: 1976 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 87 pages
Original in: German
Availability: In Time's Rift - US
In Time's Rift - UK
In Time's Rift - Canada
In Time's Rift - India
Dans la faille du temps - France
Im Zeitspalt - Deutschland
  • German title: Im Zeitspalt
  • Translated and with an Introduction by Graham Foust and Samuel Frederick
  • This is a bilingual edition which includes the original German texts

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Our Assessment:

B+ : small but powerful (and dark) collection; good introduction to the poet

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       In Time's Rift -- published with the German originals facing the English translations by Graham Foust and Samuel Frederick -- is a slim volume of forty-two poems by Ernst Meister.
       These are spare and often dark works, quickly getting to the essence:

Time is long or short,
and the truth
that will transpire
is called dying.
       The concision of expression suggests the poems are simple, but there's considerable precision to Meister's choices; unlike many German poets, Meister does not rely extensively on the compound words that are so easy to fall back on in German (and can be difficult to translate into English) yet still manages to achieve a similar effect of precision.
       Meister initially seems to tend towards abstraction -- going so far as to reduce identity to thought:
Since I don't know
what I am
from home,
I must
be thought.
       (In German: "muß ich / Gedanke sein".)
       In the closing verse of the opening poem he claims:
I know
no greater darkness
than the light.
       The finality -- and eternity -- of death looms large over much of the collection -- as in:
Time is long or short,
and the truth
that will transpire
is called dying.
       He identifies with being:
Oh, in one's
own, oh,
in death's skin ...
       (In German: the beautiful "Todeshaut".)
       And he reflects on:
Death: how it might be.
Hollow, cavern-hollow
in itself already
would be an image of life.
       (Here is one of the few lines where the wordplay can't be entirely adequately reproduced in English: "Hollow, cavern-hollow" conveys the meaning but not the alliteration of: "Hohl, höhlenhohl".)
       With its title alluding to Pascal's Pensées, as the translators explain in their Introduction, the whole collection has a strong philosophical bent -- yet Meister also offers a fresh spin on concepts in his poetic expression.
       A good, interesting collection, in a solid translation (but, more importantly, with the German originals always at hand ...), In Time's Rift is a welcome volume and certainly suggests (as does his Georg Büchner Prize) that Meister is a significant poet deserving greater attention.

- M.A.Orthofer, 31 August 2012

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In Time's Rift: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       German poet Ernst Meister (1911-1979) won the Georg Büchner Preis.

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© 2012 the complete review

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