Sarah Kirsch

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Sarah Kirsch (around 2007) photographed by Jens Rusch
Sarah Kirsch Signature.jpg
Sarah and Rainer Kirsch (center), 1964

Sarah Kirsch (born April 16, 1935 in Limlingerode , Nordhausen district ; † May 5, 2013 in Heide (Holstein) ; actually Ingrid Hella Irmelinde Kirsch , née Bernstein ) was a German writer .


Former parsonage in Limlingerode, birthplace of Sarah Kirsch, today the poet Sarah Kirsch .

Sarah Kirsch was born in the parsonage in Limlingerode as Ingrid Hella Irmelinde Bernstein; her grandfather Paul Bernstein baptized his granddaughter on May 19, 1935 in his church next door. She spent her childhood and youth in Halberstadt from 1937/38 . Her father was a telecommunications mechanic. Her strong interest in nature was expressed, among other things, in the fact that she began an apprenticeship in forestry after graduating from high school, which she soon broke off. From 1954 to 1958 she studied biology in Halle (Saale) and obtained the title of diploma biologist. In 1958 she met the poet Rainer Kirsch , with whom she was married from 1960 to 1968.

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Academy, Günther Deicke , Volker Braun , Sarah Kirsch, Wieland Herzfelde , Franz Fühmann and Stephan Hermlin (from left to right) read . Günther Rücker (5th from left) was in charge of the discussion .

From 1960 she published lyrical texts in anthologies and magazines under the first name pseudonym Sarah , which she had chosen in protest against the annihilation of the Jews in the Third Reich . From 1963 to 1965 she studied with her husband at the Johannes R. Becher Literature Institute in Leipzig . From 1965 both lived as freelance writers in Halle (Saale) and Sarah Kirsch became a member of the GDR Writers' Association . In 1965 she and her husband published the volume of poetry Talk with the Saurian , for which they both received the Erich Weinert Medal , the FDJ's art prize . Two years later, in 1967, she published her first volume of poetry under the title Land Stay .

After her divorce from Rainer Kirsch in 1968, she moved to East Berlin , where she gave birth to her son Moritz in 1969 from a brief relationship with Karl Mickel . There she worked as a journalist, radio operator and translator. In 1973 she published the poetry volume Zaubersprüche as well as the prose volumes The Panther Woman and The Unbelievable Mountain Waves at Sea . In the same year she became a board member of the GDR Writers' Association. In West Germany, a first selection of poems was published by Langewiesche-Brandt in 1969 , followed by another in 1974 under the title It was this strange summer as a bibliophile edition of the Berlin hand press. As the first to sign the declaration of protest against Wolf Biermann's expatriation , she was expelled from the SED and the GDR Writers' Association in 1976 . The following year, 1977, Sarah Kirsch received permission to move to West Berlin with her son .

In 1978 she became a member of the PEN Center of the Federal Republic of Germany and received a scholarship from Villa Massimo in Rome, where she met Wolfgang von Schweinitz , with whom she lived in the following years. In 1980, Sarah Kirsch, together with Günter Grass , Thomas Brasch and Peter Schneider, wrote an open letter to Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt , in which they called for a critical attitude towards American foreign policy. In 1992 she declined an appointment at the Berlin Academy of the Arts , as it offered shelter to former employees of the State Security . In 1996 she took over the Brothers Grimm Professorship at the University of Kassel and was also a guest lecturer at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main in 1996/97 . After moving from West Berlin, the poet lived with her son Moritz from 1981 to May 1983 in Bothel , Rotenburg district. It was there that she created her collection of poems, Katzenleben , published in 1984.

From 1983 on, Sarah Kirsch lived in a secluded life in Tielenhemme , Dithmarschen district , Schleswig-Holstein . She refused to be awarded the Federal Cross of Merit because of the Nazi past of the then Federal President Karl Carstens . In 2005 she received the Bavarian Literature Prize ( Jean-Paul Prize ) in recognition of the entire literary work. In 2006 she was awarded the honorary professorship of the State of Schleswig-Holstein by the State of Schleswig-Holstein "in recognition and appreciation of her outstanding services to the literature of Schleswig-Holstein and her unparalleled lyrical work" . Sarah Kirsch had been a member of the Free Academy of the Arts Hamburg since 1992 . Until her death, she was a member of the Else Lasker Student Society .

Kirsch's estate is in the German Literature Archive in Marbach . Parts of it can be seen in the permanent exhibition of the Modern Literature Museum in Marbach.


Sarah Kirsch is considered one of the most important German poets. Her poetry is open in form, mostly without rhyme and in free meter. Nevertheless, the rhythm in the sense of the breathing rate plays a major role, as does line breaks and line leaps that create a flow or breathlessness. Kirsch often combines technical or old-fashioned expressions with a casual tone.

Her metaphor is characterized by images that take their starting point from everyday, nature or landscape contemplation, but are alienated or experience a surprising twist. Sarah Kirsch often contrasts precise observation of nature with the emotional life of the lyrical self or political reflection. While the discussion of war and National Socialism predominated in early poems, later the landscape poem and reflections on the world crisis of civilization dominate. Kirsch does not belong to any school, but is sometimes assigned to the New Subjectivity . Kirsch named Annette von Droste-Hülshoff as a literary role model , and her work is also influenced by Johannes Bobrowski and Wladimir Majakowski . The publication of the long-standing correspondence between Sarah Kirsch and Christa Wolf caused a sensation, in which both writers openly examine professional and private topics beyond everyday GDR life.


  • Berlin - sunny side. German meeting of young people in the capital of the GDR (1964), photo reportage, together with Thomas Billhardt and Rainer Kirsch
  • Conversation with the Saurian (1965), book of poems, together with Rainer Kirsch
  • The Drunk Sun (1966), children's book. Illustrations by Erich Gürtzig
  • Stay in the country (1967), volume of poetry
  • Zaubersprüche (1973), book of poems
  • Sad day
  • The panther woman. Five uncoated stories from the cassette recorder (1973), prose volume
  • The enormous waves at sea (1973), volume of prose
  • It was that strange summer (1974), selection of poems
  • Caroline im Wassertropfen (1975), children's book, with illustrations by Erdmut Oelschläger
  • Between Autumn and Winter (1975), children's book, together with Ingrid Schuppan
  • Tailwind. Poems (1976), this volume of poetry is characterized by the motifs of love, separation and loneliness, due to the separation from Kirsch's lover Christoph Meckel , who lived in West Berlin separated from her by the wall.
  • In Summer (1977)
  • Music on the Water (1977), selected volume
  • Winter Poems (1978)
  • Cat's Head Plaster (1978), selection of poems
  • Seven skins. Poems 1962–1979 (1979)
  • Flying a Kite (1979), poems
  • Separation (1979), poems
  • Wind and shadow , together with the artist Kota Taniuchi
  • La Pagerie (1980), prose poems
  • Gender swap (1980), together with Irmtraud Morgner and Christa Wolf
  • Hans mein Igel (1980), children's book based on the children's and house tales by the Brothers Grimm , with illustrations by Paula Schmidt
  • Paper stars (1981), set to music by Wolfgang von Schweinitz
  • Erdreich (1982), Poems
  • Between Autumn and Winter (1983), with illustrations by Kurt Mühlenhaupt . Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, Cologne, 1. – 8. Thousand, ISBN 3-7876-9154-5
  • Katzenleben (1984), poems
  • Land routes. A selection 1980–1985 (1985), with an afterword by Günter Kunert
  • A hundred poems and a conversation about their poems. (1985) (a selection from the books country stay , spells , tailwind , Drachensteigen ) Ebenshausen
  • Reisezehrung (1986), prose
  • Irrstern (1987), volume of prose
  • Book with poems by Sarah Kirsch and drawings by AR Penck in the Berlin “Edition Malerbücher” (1987)
  • All sorts of rough. Eine Chronik (1988), volume of prose
  • Air and water. New poems and pictures , with pictures by Ingo Kühl , Edition Lutz Arnold in Steidl Verlag, Göttingen 1988, special edition for ISBN 3-88243-096-6 .
  • Air and water. Poems and pictures , with pictures by Ingo Kühl, Edition Lutz Arnold in Steidl Verlag, Göttingen 1988, ISBN 3-88243-096-6 .
  • Warmth of snow. Poems (1989)
  • Winter Music (1989)
  • Die Flut (1990), selection, compiled by Gerhard Wolf
  • Schwingrasen (1991), prose
  • Chaff (1991), picture diary
  • Erlkönig's Daughter (1992), poems
  • Das simple Leben (1994), prose miniatures and poems
  • Bottomless (1996)
  • Complete edition, 5 volumes in a slipcase. (1999), simultaneously in the Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt Munich / Stuttgart (DVA) and in the Deutsches Taschenbuch Verlag (dtv)
  • Cats jumped at the edge and laughed , poems and prose, selection by Franz-Heinrich Hackel, Manesse Verlag, Zurich 2000, ISBN 3-7175-8270-4
  • Sarah Kirsch and Christoph W. Aigner: I stepped away while painting (2000), art band
  • Swan love. Lines and Miracles (2001), lyrical miniatures
  • Islandhoch, Tagebruchteile (2002), prose
  • The Snow Comes in a Storm (2005), prose
  • Kuckuckslichtnelken (2006), prose
  • Regenkatze (2007), volume of prose (Lyrisches Tagebuch)
  • Summer hat (2008)
  • Crows chatter . Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-421-04451-8
  • March violets . Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-421-04541-6
  • In the mirror. Poetic denomination. With a preliminary remark by Isabelle Lehn, Sascha Macht and Katja Stopka. In: Sinn und Form , 6/2013, pp. 848–855
  • June November . Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-421-04636-9
  • English . Prose; with an afterword by Frank Trende . Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-421-04649-9


Literary reception

Christa Wolf

In Sommerstück , Christa Wolf tells - like Sarah Kirsch in Chronik Allerlei-Rauh  - of a summer vacation in Mecklenburg in the 1970s, together with friends who renovated old farmhouses. Although reference is made to the fictional character of the summer piece [s] , z. B. "Bella" clearly recognizable as Sarah Kirsch in Wolf's characterization and assessment.

Bella lives with her little son Jonas with a friend and there cultivates her hatred of the unfaithful lover (reference to The Meropsvogel ), who prevents her from writing because he has not sent a sign from France for weeks while she tears up her letters to him again and scatters the snippets in the wind. In a conversation, she suddenly announces her departure, which some have already suspected. (One day I'll jump out of there.) In this context, in contrast to the milder perception and self-perception of the All-Rough- Me narrator, the time of upheaval with the impending tensions that overshadow the holiday atmosphere is noticeable: in 1976, both writers will end excluded from their association after they signed an open letter against Wolf Biermann's expatriation .

Christa Wolf reacts differently to Kirsch and reflects this self-critically in Sommerstück : “Something would change, today we all say we knew it couldn't stay that way. [...] The scream that sat in our throats was not uttered. We have not come out of our skin ”.

Sommerstück begins with two quotes from Kirsch: The first sentence is the heading of the poem It was this strange summer . A second poem, the motif of which is taken up in the course of the plot as a bird of prey circling over the group of friends, precedes the story: The air is a bird of prey So I never circled over people and trees [...] and fly away through the summer!

Place of poetry Sarah Kirsch

Facade sign "Sarah Kirsch poets" on the former parsonage in Limlingerode - this is where the poet was born in 1935

In 1998, in her hometown Limlingerode, today part of Hohenstein , the support association “Dichterstätte Sarah Kirsch e. V. ”, which since 2000 has reconstructed Kirsch's birthplace, the former parsonage next to the church , with funds from the State of Thuringia , the German Monument Foundation Bonn and the Monument Association Thuringia and opened in 2002 as“ Sarah Kirsch's poet's place ”. Sarah Kirsch has attended readings several times since 1997.

Documentation and literature

  • Barbara Mabee: The Poetics of Sarah Kirsch: Memory work and historical consciousness , Amsterdam 1989 (Amsterdam publications on language and literature; Volume 83).
  • Herlinde Koelbl : Sarah Kirsch. In: Writing at home - How writers go about their work - Photographs and conversations. Knesebeck Verlag, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-89660-041-9 , pp. 22-27 (photo documentation of Kirsch at her workplace and in the personal environment with an interview on working methods and literary self-image).
  • Theo Rommerskirchen: Sarah Kirsch. In: viva signature si! Remagen-Rolandseck 2005, ISBN 3-926943-85-8 .
  • Monika Wolting : The garden as a topos in the work of Marie Luise Kaschnitz, Undine Gruenter and Sarah Kirsch. Wrocław 2009, ISBN 978-83-229-2985-8 .
  • Sarah Kirsch, Christa Wolf: “We really got used to all kinds of things.” The correspondence . Edited by Sabine Wolf with the collaboration of Heiner Wolf, Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-518-42886-3 .
  • Short biography for:  Kirsch, Sarah . In: Who was who in the GDR? 5th edition. Volume 1. Ch. Links, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86153-561-4 .


Dummy head: beautiful and useless. Songs to contemporary poetry. Aulos-Schallplattenverlag, Viersen-Dülken 1987, AUL 53599. The album of the Herdecker trio Heidrun Reymann (vocals), Siegfried Hiltmann (saxophone, flute, clarinet) and Ulrich Heimann (guitar) contains sloes , call and curse formula , bird of prey and Always from a hundred poems .

Web links

Commons : Sarah Kirsch  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Popular Büchner Prize winner: Poet Sarah Kirsch is dead . Spiegel Online , May 22, 2013
  2. Photo: Holger Zürch
  3. a b Lucy Fricke: Another kind of loneliness . In: the daily newspaper . October 19, 2013, p. 24-25 .
  4. ^ Winner of the Jean Paul Prize. ( Memento of the original from June 27, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Bavarian State Ministry for Education and Culture, Science and Art @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. Honorary title "Professor". In: Archived from the original on March 22, 2015 ; accessed on October 16, 2014 .
  6. ^ Report on the new permanent exhibition.
  7. Jan Kuhlbrodt: Obituary Sarah Kirsch: "You are not on earth" . Zeit Online , May 22, 2013.
  8. a b c Gerhard Sauder: Sarah Kirsch. In: Monika Schmitz-Emans, Uwe Lindemann, Manfred Schemling (eds.): Poetics: Authors, Texts, Terms. Walter de Gruyter, 2009, ISBN 978-3-11-018223-1 , p. 230.
  9. Alo Allkemper, Norbert Otto Eke: Literary Studies. 3. Edition. UTB, 2010, ISBN 978-3-8252-2590-2 , p. 268.
  10. ^ Barbara Baumann, Birgitta Obere: German literature in epochs . [Hauptbd.] Hueber Verlag, 1985, ISBN 3-19-001399-3 , p. 271.
  12. Air and Water - Poems and Pictures , Table of Contents of the Poems (PDF)
  13. Christa Wolf: Summer Piece. Frankfurt am Main 1989.
  14. Sarah Kirsch: Allerlei-Rauh. Stuttgart 1988, pp. 45-77.
  15. Christa Wolf: Summer Piece. 1989, final remark.
  16. s. Wolf, Christa Wolf: summer piece. 1989, pp. 112-125, 134-135, 187.
  17. s. Wiepersdorf Castle / Literary processing
  18. Sarah Kirsch: Tailwind. Ebenhausen 1977, p. 37.
  19. Christa Wolf: Summer Piece. 1989, p. 124.
  20. ^ Sarah Kirsch: Country residence. Ebenhausen 1969, p. 59.
  21. Christa Wolf: Summer Piece. 1989, p. 123.