(Subway Line, No. 4)

(Translated by Michael Eskin)

2011 INDEPENDENT PUBLISHER BOOK AWARD winner for Essay/Creative Non-Fiction

Read review in The Chronicle of Higher Education
Read review in Ploughshares

"American readers who'd like not to be caught off guard the next time the Nobel goes out to the German-speaking world ... may do well to acquaint themselves with the work of Durs Grünbein ..."
--Jeffrey Eugenides

Available as an eBook at Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Kobo, Apple, Blio, Diesel and other fine eBook retailers.

ISBN 978-0-9795829-9-8 (Softcover)
ISBN 978-1-935830-11-5 (eBook)

What counts is the one, unattended second, the moment of inspiration that can never be forced and that decides all. It gives the beginning, it sets in motion the production of sense. The poem is the literary form that most purely captures this moment of inception. I might even go so far as to say that poetry is in large part born from the desire to start over as often as possible ...


“... Grünbein’s challenge to Eliot’s notion that 'poetry doesn’t matter' [is] one of the most unique (and readable) arguments to the contrary.”

The Vocation of Poetry makes an inviting entry point to [Grünbein's] work ...”

“This extraordinary volume offers a dazzling personal poetics as well as a sustained engagement with the origins of poetry itself. In tracing an arc from the landfills and forests of an East German childhood to the ‘global airspace of poetry’, it takes in a breathtaking poetic itinerary from the Classics to the present day. Emerging from the heart of the European tradition, every page is packed with insight, wit and linguistic surprises, superbly rendered in Michael Eskin’s supple English. But more than that: this is a volume with a mission. In reckoning with the possibilities of poetry, it sets out to show us a better way of being in the world: ‘a guide to thinking and feeling with precision’. Written by one of the most exciting and thought-provoking writers of the moment, The Vocation of Poetry is essential reading for anyone interested in modern poetry or in modern life.”
Karen J. Leeder, author of Breaking Boundaries: A New Generation of GDR Poets and Professor of Literature at the University of Oxford

“... a poet who is frequently described as the best to emerge in Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

“… an exemplary artist not only of his country but of the New Europe …”

“... unpredictably imaginative and psychologically penetrating.”

"... Grünbein's poems read as if the forces of history pressing in on the present drove them into this world."

The New York Times Book Review

"Grünbein's ... work has a depth that deserves our attention."

San Francisco Chronicle

Translated by Michael Eskin

ISBN 978-0-9795829-9-8 (Softcover)
ISBN 978-1-935830-11-5 (eBook)

Publication Date: February 2011


One of the world's greatest living poets and essayists, Dresden-born Durs Grünbein has had been the recipient of many national and international awards, including the Georg Büchner Prize (Germany’s most prestigious literary recognition) (1994), the Friedrich Nietzsche Prize (2004), the Friedrich Hölderlin Prize (2005), the Berlin Literature Prize (2006), the Premio Internazionale di Poesia Pier Paolo Pasolini (2006), and, together with Adam Sagajewski, the German-Polish Samuel Bogumil Linde Prize (2009). His book Ashes for Breakfast: Selected Poems (translated by Michael Hofmann) was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize 2006. He has also been a Fellow at the Villa Aurora in Los Angeles and the Villa Massimo in Rome, Italy. In 2009, he was awarded the Order Pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts as well as the Great Cross of Merit with Star by the President of the Federal Republic of Germany. Since 1988, when the then twenty-five-year-old’s first collection of poems, Grauzone, morgens (Gray zone, morning), appeared — a mordantly poignant poetic reckoning with life in the former East Germany—Durs Grünbein has published more than twenty books of poetry and prose, which have been translated into dozens of languages. He holds the Chair for Poetics and Artistic Aesthetics at the School of the Arts in Düsseldorf, Germany, and lives in Berlin, Germany.