Peter Paul Zahl (1944-2011)

menschen-pp-zahl_dernach-jamaika-ausgewanderte-dichter-schriftsteller-peter-paul-zahl-seine-autorenlesung-cToday two years ago, the German poet Peter Paul Zahl died in  Port Antonio, Jamaica.

Zahl was a German anarchist who turned author while spending ten years in prison in the 70s after shooting at a police during a manhunt for terrorists. In 1985, he emigrated to Jamaica where he was granted Jamaican citizenship and worked as a stage director and writer.

In the seventies I translated some of his work, but this being BC (Before Computers) the typed pages must be somewhere in my archives, unfindable. For the occasion I translated two short poems by Zahl —who in the early Berlin days worked as a printer — both from his 1975 book Schutzimpfung / immunization.

the printer

i called her lola montez.
she prints 4000 sheets an hour.
how many phon/i don’t know.

when she angers me
because of thin paper/i don’t oil her.
she’s painted black/not me.
she is loud. i’m silent.
so what can i say.
she produces. i help her do so.
i’m not a manufacturer.
the boss is.
he sits in his soundproof office.
where every friday I go and sign.

i called her lola montez.
she prints 4000 sheets an hour.
how many phon/i don’t know.

when she’s very old
she’ll be thrown out.
not me.

early death

Mozart
died at the age
of 35

should I lament this
when the average
life expectancy in Iran
is 30

Chopin
died at the age
of 39

to reach 39
today in Ecuador
is quite an achievement

Rimbaud
died at the age
of 37

he would be among
the grizzly old men today
in the ghettos of Cape Town

let us not bemoan
those who
died too young

better to make sure
that those responsible for
the early death in
Iran/Ecuador/Cape Town
die early

thus we’d honor
the classics

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2 opinions on “Peter Paul Zahl (1944-2011)”

  1. Thank you for helping me understand what a ZAHL is..I gather from this translation that it is a brief poem politically oriented…our poetry group mentioned a zahl as an acceptable poetic form.

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