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Durs Grünbein - Biography

Durs Grünbein, was born on October 9, 1962 in Dresden, Germany. He is widely considered to be the most important poets to emerge from former East Germany. He has made Berlin his home since 1985, though he is a cosmopolitan in spirit. This duality comes across in his poetry, which betrays a concern for the situation of Germany in the contemporary world while deftly transversing different historical worlds that have perished. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Durs Grünbein became one of the most significant writers, poets, and voices of the reunified Germany.

Durs Grünbein’s work is integrally linked with his personal experiences growing up within the political turmoil of East Germany. As he commented in an interview with Der Spiegel"I was lost to the D.D.R. the moment I was born." Within his first work Grauzone morgens (1988) the reader finds one of the last testimonies to come from the ‘ghetto of a lost generation’, the generation born and raised in the utopia of communist East Germany. As others of his generation, he is dealing with the inherited history of disillusioned dreams and isolation. The poem, “Vita Brevis," begins with a statement of despair: “In a rotten nutshell, I grew up amid the barrenness and confusion."

Durs Grünbein was born to what he describes as youthful parents. Durs was an only child. Durs Grünbein desired to become a veterinarian and travel the Serengeti as a child. At the age of 26 his first collection of poems, Grauzone, morgens was published. Durs writes of his vision of poetry:

Imagine a thinking that could penetrate into certain otherwise hard-to-reach places, like dental floss between the wisdom teeth or an endoscope into the stomach. It will make certain places visible for the very first time — individual branches of the otherwise intractable psychic cave system that runs through the bodies of all humans and can be discovered only by a resourceful imagination audaciously pushing forward into still unsecured galleries. This thinking is poetic thinking, and it is not the exclusive domain of poets and literati; rather, it is a method used by many small search parties that have started out from several directions unbeknownst to one another, an army of phenomenologists working on expanding the confines of our shared imaginaries.

The Bars of Atlantis (2010), is a collection of essays by Durs Grünbein that covers twenty years of his incredible work as an essayist and is now available to the English market. The book weaves through the complexities of life in Eastern Germany, through the landscape of his childhood where clearly his poetic vision began to take shape. The cities grasp upon his life and work rings clear throughout his lyrics, the experiences of his everyday culminate in deeply rich verse. Durs writes extensively on the cities of East Germany and their architectural designation:

Today, I know that almost every city has its own Vesuvius. Our modern-day volcanoes are the large slag-heaps beside open workings, the garbage heaps and dumps of all kinds, the mighty soaring scrap heaps on the edges of our cities . . . If you break the seal, vowels turn into artefacts, lines of verse prove to be little capsules loaded with emblems. Whatever is subsequently encountered . . . all that is the stuff of poetry.

Durs Grünbein was influenced by the work of Bertolt Brect. He was particularly drawn to Brecht's works describing his experiences living as an exile in Southern California during the 1940s. He has received numerous prizes in Germany for his poetry, including the Georg Büchner Prize (1995), the Peter Huchel Prize for Poetry (1995), and the Friedrich Nietzsche Prize (2004). Durs Grünbein was The Max Kade Distinguished Visiting Professor at Dartmouth College in 2005 and became the first chair of poetry at the Academy of Fine Arts at Düsseldorf in 2006. His work has been translated into numerous languages. In addition to his world-renowned poetry, Durs Grünbein has written several collections of essays and an opera libretto. Durs Grünbein has also translated other literary works into German, notably The Persians by Aeschylus (2001) and Thyestes by Seneca (2002).

Durs Grünbein is the author of the following books: Grauzone morgens (1988), Schädelbasislektion (1991), Falten und Fallen (1994), Den Teuren Toten (1994), Von der üblen Seite (1994), Die Schweizer Korrektur (with Brigitte Oleschinski und Peter Waterhouse), Urs Engeler Editor (1995), Den Körper zerbrechen. Rede zur Entgegennahme des Georg-Büchner-Preises (1995), Galilei vermißt Dantes Hölle und bleibt an den Maßen hängen. (Aufsätze 1989-1995) (1996), Nach den Satiren (1999), Gehirn und Denken (2000), Reise, Toter. Audio-CD with Ulrike Haage (2001), Das erste Jahr. Berliner Aufzeichnungen (2001), Erklärte Nacht (2002), Una Storia Vera, Ein Kinderalbum in Versen (2002), Warum schriftlos leben (2003), Vom Schnee oder Descartes in Deutschland (2003), An Seneca. Postskriptum (2004), Von ganzem Herzen (2004), Berenice, Libretto nach Berenice von Edgar Allan Poe (2004), Antike Dispositionen (2005), Porzellan. Poem vom Untergang meiner Stadt (2005), Der Misanthrop auf Capri (2005), Strophen für übermorgen (2007), Liebesgedichte, Gedichte (2008), Der cartesische Taucher (2008), and Lob des Taifuns (2008), The Bars of Atlantis: Selected Essays (2010).

Durs Grünbein has published many short articles, essays and poems in journals and magazines including: "Sunder. Schauspieler. Stubenfliege. Drei Legenden." in: Akzente. 55, No. 1, (2008), "Vier Gedichte." in: Akzente. 55, No. 5, (2008), "CHRONIQUES - Le poeme et son mystere." in: Europe : revue littéraire mensuelle. (2008), " Strophen fur Übermorgen." in: Akzente. 54, No. 1, (2007), "Gedichte." in: Die Neue Rundschau. 118, No. 4, (2007), "Schule der Autopsie." in: Sinn und form. 59, No. 2, (2007), "FORUM - Fünf Gedichte." in: Die Neue Rundschau. 117, No. 3, (2006), "Die Logik von Nova Saxonia." in: Akzente. 53, No. 1, (2006), "Charakterstücke." in: Sinn und form. 58, No. 2, (2006), "Die Stimme des Denkers. Dankrede zum Nietzsche-Preis." in: Sinn und form. 57, No. 1, (2005), “Aus dem Poesiealbum der Vera S." in: Kursbuch. No. 556, (2004), "Städtebilder, Innenansichten. Dresden und Berlin." in: Sinn und form. 56, No. 2, (2004), "Vom Schnee. Vorrede, Vorstudien, Nachträge." in: Sinn und form. 56, No. 1, (2004), "Fleisch und Stein. Gedichte." in: Akzente. 51, No. 1, (2004), “Die Eroberung Berlins." in: Akzente. 51, No. 1, (2004), "Auch Dresden ist ein Werk des Malerlehrlings." in: Lose Blatter. (March 15, 2002), "Readings - Useful Illusions." in: Harper's. (July 2002) and "Mantegna, Perhaps." in: TLS, the Times literary supplement. No. 5015, (1999).

Durs Grünbein was a Professor of Poetry at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, where he conducted an Intensive Summer Workshop with Martin Hielscher.