Steffen Popp
translation by Bradley Schmidt



A thousand giants are a chicken(1)
eleven fools a whale(2)
but eleven whales are far from a true fool.

Said a squid, prototype of your hand
which wiggled, waved, disappeared
in the seaweed thicket oddly curved.

Which emerged from a watering trough, a grave
disappeared in a mitten, in a milling machine.
Which emerged from an encyclopedia, volume Hammer – Honky-Tonk
disappeared in Neva Bay, off Madagascar.
And also disappeared in the Gulf Stream.
And disappeared in Mount Etna.
And disappeared.

Actless action is your specialty, fiddleless
fiddling, twiddling without thumbs. Footless foot others
eyeless eye everything except the dreaming, etc.

There were never a thousand giants in Europe.
However, a thousand chickens have been documented repeatedly.
Eleven fools are documented in legends, historical dramas
in departments, NGOs, and the toilets of international airports.

Whales are large marine mammals which feed on krill
off Iceland and Japan, Greenland and Cape Horn.

The drained net weight of all chickens across the world
in batteries, free range, on roasting spits and in deep freezers
is seven times larger than all whales
at all times, in all legends and seas.

Naturally, information about the drained net weight of all fools is vague.
According to estimates, it exceeds that of all screwed worlds
and therefore by far that of all living humans.


(1) Central and Northern European Mountain giants, coll. farm chicken
(2) Sperm whale (adult)


From Dickicht mit Reden und Augen (© Kookbooks 2013) by Steffen Popp. Translation © Bradley Schmidt


Steffen Popp was born in 1978 in Greifswald and lives in Berlin. He has written the volumes of poetry Wie Alpen (Kookbooks, 2004), Kolonie Zur Sonne (Kookbooks, 2008), Dickicht mit Reden und Augen (Kookbooks, 2013) and the novel Ohrenberg oder der Weg dorthin (Kookbooks, 2006). He has translated the US poets Christian Hawkey and Ben Lerner, and created the concept and co-edited the poetics book Helm aus Plox (Merve Verlag 2011). He is the recipient of various awards and was nominated for the German Book Prize in 2006.

Bradley Schmidt grew up in rural Kansas, completed a BA in German Studies at a small liberal arts college there, studied German Literature and Theology in Marburg, and started a dissertation on Schleiermacher in Halle an der Saale before completing an MA in Translation Studies in Leipzig. He lives and works in Leipzig as a freelance translator and adjunct instructor at Leipzig University.

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MadHat, Issue 14, Spring 2013