Goethe Book Club Goethe Book Club: Flight and Metamorphosis: Poems of Nelly Sachs (2022)

Flight and Metamorphosis © MacMillan Flight and Metamorphosis © MacMillan

Tue, 07/12/2022

6:30 PM Eastern


Translated to English by Joshua Weiner, with Linda B. Parshall

A book club discussion of Flight and Metamorphosis, poems of Nelly Sachs, translated to English by Joshua Weiner, with Linda B. Parshall (2022)

Read and discuss works by German authors in this series hosted by the Goethe-Institut Washington. All books can be read in English translation or in the German original; our discussion will be in English.

Please Note: In order to participate in the online discussion (carried out over Zoom), registrants must obtain access to the work on their own. Hard copies of the work can be ordered through multiple vendors online; the eBook is also available for download to Kindle, iPad, and other digital reading platforms.


Flucht und Verwandlung / Flight and Metamorphosis, by Nelly Sachs
Translation by Joshua Weiner, with Linda B. Parshall

This central collection by the poet, dramatist, and Nobel laureate Nelly Sachs—newly translated from the German by Joshua Weiner with Linda B. Parshall—reveals the visionary poet’s remarkable power of creation and transformation.

So far out, in the open,
cushioned in sleep.
In flight from the land
with love's heavy luggage.

A butterfly-zone of dreams
like an open parasol
held up against the truth.

Flight and Metamorphosis marks the culmination of Nelly Sachs’s development as a poet. Sachs, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1966, speaks from her own condition as a refugee from Nazi Germany—her loneliness while living in a small Stockholm flat with her elderly mother, her exile, her alienation, her feelings of romantic bereavement, and her search for the divine. Forced onto a journey of endless change, Sachs created her own path forward.

From these sublime poems, she emerges as a visionary, one who harnesses language’s essential power to create and transform our world. Joshua Weiner’s translations are the first in more than half a century to elucidate Sachs’s enduring poetic power and relevance.

Nelly Sachs 
(1891–1970) was a dramatist and poet. Born into a Jewish family in Berlin, she was forced to flee Germany and escape to Sweden with her mother in 1940, where she worked as a translator. Her collections of poetry include In the Habitations of Death, Eclipse of StarsAnd No One Knows Where to Go, and Flight and Metamorphosis. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1966.

Joshua Weiner is a poet living in Washington D.C. He has published research on the poets Thomas McGrath, Mina Loy, and Thom Gunn, as well as essays on Emily Dickinson and Thelonious Monk, Fulke Greville, Lynette Roberts, Charles Reznikoff, Philip Larkin, Seamus Heaney, Kenneth Koch, William Carlos Williams, and others. Weiner has also written on German language poets and fiction writers, such as Gottfried Benn, Ernst Meister, Lutz Seiler, Anna Seghers, Christa Wolf, Brecht, and Rilke. In addition to teaching the poetry workshops offered by the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Maryland, Weiner has taught graduate seminars on the long poem; modern British poetry; and postmodern American poetry.

Linda B. Parshall’s publications include scholarly articles and translations focused on German literature, landscape theory, and art history from the medieval to the modern period. In 2016, she edited and translated Letters of a Dead Man by Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau (Dumbarton Oaks).

Discussion of the poetry collection will take place virtually via Zoom on Tuesday, April 12, at 6:30pm Eastern. Please RSVP via Eventbrite in order to receive discussion prompts and the Zoom invite link.

Discussion prompts from the facilitator will be emailed to all participants RSVP'd via Eventbrite in advance of the discussion. The Zoom invite and additional directions/tips for accessing the Zoom discussion will be emailed to all participants no less than 48 hours before the discussion begins. The discussion will take place in English.

The discussion for Flight and Metamorphosis will be facilitated by Suzanne Zweizig. Suzanne Zweizig is the translation editor for poetry journal Poet Lore. Her poetry has appeared in such publications as Beloit Poetry JournalSubtropicsVerse DailyPoet Lore, and Waccamaw Review. She has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Washington, D.C. Arts Commission, and was a semi-finalist for The Nation/Discovery prize in 2003. She holds an M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Florida, where she studied with German translator Michael Hoffmann, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.