Born Isaac Lang in Alsace-Lorraine in 1891, Yvan Goll had one foot in the German avant-garde and the other in the French. Before World War I, when Alsace-Lorraine belonged to the German Empire, Goll briefly participated in the expressionist movement in Berlin. At the outbreak of the war Goll moved to Switzerland to avoid being drafted and there befriended Hans Arp, Picabia and other exiled dadaists. Goll wrote many war poems in that period, of which Requiem for the Dead of Europe is probably his best-known. During his exile in Switzerland he met his future wife Klara Aischmann (Claire Goll), whom he married after the war when the couple had settled in Paris. Having been raised bi-lingually Goll worked as a German-French translator in those days and had close ties with the surrealists. Goll founded Surréalisme magazine, which only saw one issue and published the Manifeste du surréalisme in 1924, two weeks earlier than Breton. Goll and Breton clashed over the rights to the term surréalisme and, not surprisingly, Goll was excommunicated from the movement.
The rise of Nazi Germany and the persecution of Jews forced Goll and wife to seek refuge in New York in 1939, where they stayed until 1947. After having been diagnosed with leukaemia in 1945 and having moved back to Paris two years later, Goll returned to writing poems in German. These final poems, which Goll considered his poetic testament, are a powerful alloy of expressionism and surrealism fused in “blast furnaces of pain”. Goll’s poem Bluthund is one of the poems of that series, which was published as Traumkraut shortly after Goll’s death in 1950. Traumkraut was translated into English by Nan Watkins for Black Lawrence Press, who published the compilation as Dreamweed in 2012.
The Sea Urchin chapbook Bloodhound is an alternative English translation of Bluthund, published in a limited and hand made edition of 15 copies. Translation and artwork: Ben Schot.