Skip to main content

Ernst Jandl: Not a concrete pot


auf einem stuhl
liegt ein hut.
wissen voneinander
so dingfest


on a chair
lies a hat.
knows anything
of the other.
so thingsure

Dedalus Press has re-issued Ernst Jandl’s Dingfest/Thingsure, a handsome dual language edition of the poet’s work with translations by Michael Hamburger, which replaces the volume originally published by the same publisher in 1997 as part of its Poetry Europe Series. The book collects the shorter poems of this wide-ranging experimental Austrian poet – a poet whose work, so embedded in the verbal possibilities of the German language, is often regarded as untranslatable. Here, for example, is his famous ‘ottos mops’ (otto’s pug), not included here, a poem which depends wholly on the different qualities of the sound of ‘o’ in German .

ottos mops

ottos mops trotzt
otto: fort mops fort
ottos mops hopst fort
otto: soso

otto holt koks
otto holt obst
otto horcht
otto: mops mops
otto hofft

ottos mops klopft
otto: komm mops komm
ottos mops kommt
ottos mops kotzt
otto: ogottogott

And here is a game translation by Elizabeth MacKiernan, from Ernst Jandl: Reft and Light, Poems, translated from the German by various American poets. Providence (USA): 2000. Both are available on the excellent German poetry site

Lulu’s Pooch

Lulu’s pooch droops
Lulu: Scoot, pooch, scoot!
Lulu’s pooch soon scoots.
Lulu brooms room.

Lulu scoops food.
Lulu spoons roots.
Lulu croons: Pooch, pooch.
Lulu broods.

Lulu’s pooch drools.
Lulu:Poor fool pooch.
Lulu grooms pooch.

Lulu’s pooch poops.
Lulu: Oops.

Jandl would understand the problem, having written many poems in English, one of which, nicely summing up the challenge of writing different kinds of poems and being therefore inconvenient to categorise, Hamburger quotes:

i love concrete
i love pottery
but i’m not
a concrete pot

Hamburger’s selection makes available in English a particular thread of Jandl’s work, ‘short poems of all periods, yet only of the straight kind most congenial to a translator never mistaken for a concrete pot’. These poems are the comic, inventive, performance side of Jandl – the only side this reader knows – and are very attractive in their attention to language, their ‘thing-fixity’ and in the flavour of the sceptical intelligence behind them.


um ein gedicht zu machen
habe ich nichts

eine ganze sprache
ein ganzes leben
ein ganzes denken
ein ganzes erinnern

um ein gedicht zu machen
habe ich nichts


for the making of a poem
i have nothing

a whole language
a whole life
a whole thinking
a whole remembering

for the making of a poem
i have nothing.

Dingfest/Thingsure. Ernst Jandl. Translated by Michael Hamburger. Dedalus, 1997, 2006.


Anonymous said…
in :
More than 5000 Love Poems in a very user friendly interface with little ads
Jules Horne said…

Here's my Scots translation of 'ottos mops':

shugs dug

shugs dug grumps
shug: run dug run
shugs dug runs
shug: tut tut

shug lugs wud
shug lugs buns
shug mulls
shug: dug dug
shug blubs

shugs dug dunts
shug: come dug come
shugs dug hurls
shug: fuck fuck

The audio is online at

All the best,
Jules Horne
Cheap Viagra said…
I love everything related to poetry ever since I am a huge poetry fan! The matter of fact is that I would like to improve somehow my writing skills. Indeed, your column has made me understand new stuff related to poetry,
xanax online said…
Good day! You some form of knowledgeable? Nice message. Can you tell me easy methods to subscribe your weblog?
bondage video said…
Great website, looks very clean and organized.
very nice posting. Obvious to see that you have a great talent in the field.. Thank you for doing such a great job.

Popular posts from this blog

Songs of the earth (1): Yannis Ritsos

The Meaning of Simplicity
I hide behind simple things so you’ll find me; if you don’t find me, you’ll find the things, you’ll touch what my hand has touched our hand-prints will merge.
The August moon glitters in the kitchen like a tin-plated pot (it gets that way because of what I’m saying to you), it lights up the empty house and the house’s kneeling silence– always the silence remains kneeling.
Every word is a doorway to a meeting, one often cancelled, and that’s when a word is true: when it insists on the meeting.
(Translated by Edmund Keeley, published in The Greek Poets: From Homer to the Present, Norton, 2010)
Yannis Ritsos’ output as a poet was enormous. He published more than a hundred collections of poetry, and often wrote with great speed, sometimes producing three collections in a single year. Such protean fluency can interfere with the reception of a poet in his own culture, and it can also inhibit or distort the reception in translation. How do you choose? How much o…


My new book, Sway, Versions of Poems from the Troubadour Tradition, will be published by Gallery Press in October. This one is a riff rather than a version, taking as its starting point a line by the 12th century trobairitz, Beatriz, Countess of Dia.

Riff for Beatriz
Ab joi et ab joven m’apais

I feed on joy and youth    the rest
forget    all texts
abandoned     I feed
with joy     I feed on you or would
were you here    were I there
by the lake    in the wood    where the
nightingales are    I hear them
the buds along the branches roar
the frost withdraw    I feast on the season
that you may come to me
like light to the trees    I set
my pilgrim heart to roam
I am here   your loosened armour  your
Saracen hands   I feed
on spices and desert air
the rest is argument    discourse
the lines unwinding
the lines bound like the twigs of a broom
to sweep you away and pull you back
my dust is yours together we blow through the meadows
I was here but now
a stir of language in the trees     bird…