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Poetry: Günter Eich

Günter Eich

Günter Eich was born in Germany in 1907. He served in the German Wehrmacht in World War II, and was captured by the Americans. While in captivity at a US POW camp in Remagen, Eich wrote poetry, which was later compiled into his first major book, Abelegene Gehöfte (Outlying farms). [1] After his release from the camp in 1947, he co-founded Gruppe 47, a left-leaning writer’s society, of which Günter Grass, another German WWII veteran and poet, was a member. He continued writing prose, poetry, and radio plays until his death in 1972. [2]

Eich’s poem, “Inventory,” which describes a prisoner’s belongings, is one of Germany’s most famous poems from World War II. [3]

Inventory

This is my cap,
this is my coat,
here’s my shaving gear
in a linen sack.
A can of rations:
my plate, my cup,
I’ve scratched my name
in the tin.
Scratched it with this
valuable nail
which I hide
from avid eyes.
In the foodsack is
a pair of wool socks
and something else that I
show to no one,
It all serves as a pillow
for my head at night.
The cardboard here lies
between me and the earth.
The lead in my pencil
I love most of all:
in the daytime it writes down
the verses I make at night.

This is my notebook,
this is my tarpaulin,
this is my towel,
this is my thread. [4]


[1] “Günter Eich.” Poetry Foundation. Web. 03 May 2011. .

[2] “Günter Eich.” Voices Education Project. Web. 30 Apr. 2011.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

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