Kirsten, Wulf 1934–

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KIRSTEN, Wulf 1934–

PERSONAL: Born June 21, 1934, in Klipphausen, Germany. Education: University of Leipzig, graduated 1964, certified as a teacher.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Ammann Verlag, Postfach 163, 8032 Zurich, Switzerland.

CAREER: Worked variously as a baker, construction worker, clerk, and teacher; Aufbau (publisher), Berlin, West Germany (now Germany), editor, 1965–87; freelance writer, 1987–.

AWARDS, HONORS: Louis Fürnberg prize, 1972; City of Weimar literature and art prize, 1983; Johannes R. Becher prize, 1985; Peter Huchel prize, 1987; Heinrich Mann prize, 1989; German Association of Protestant Bookshops book prize, 1990; Literature of the Arts prize, 1991; Elisabeth Langgässer prize, 1993; Fedor Malchow prize for poetry, 1994; Weimar prize, 1994; Erwin Strittmatter prize, 1995; Henning Kaufmann Foundation prize, 1997; Horst Bienek prize, 1999; Marie Luise Kaschnitz prize, 2000; Schillerring, German Schiller Association, 2002; honorary doctorate, Friedrich Schiller University, 2003; Eichendorff prize, Wangener Society for Literature and the Arts, 2004; Konrad Adenauer award, 2005.


Die Schlacht bei Kesselsdorf: ein Bericht; Kleewunsch: ein Kleinstadtbild, Aufbau (Berlin, West Germany), 1984.

Winterfreuden: zwei Prosatexte, Ulrich Keicher (Warmbronn, West Germany), 1987.

Wulf Kirsten: Texte, Dokumente, Materialien, Elster (Moos, West Germany), 1987.

Eintragung ins Grundbuch: Thüringen im Gedicht, Hain (Rudolstadt, Germany), 1996.

Texten: Reden und Aufstätze, Ammann (Zürich, Switzerland), 1998.

Die Prinzessinnen im Krautgarten (autobiography; title means "The Princesses in the Herb Garden"), Ammann (Zürich, Switzerland), 2000.


Wulf Kirsten, Neues Leben (Berlin, West Germany), 1968.

Satzanfang, Aufbau (Berlin, West Germany), 1970.

Der Landgänger, Sassafras (Düsseldorf, West Germany), 1976.

Ziegelbrennersprache, J. G. Bläschke (Darmstadt, West Germany), 1977.

Der Bleibaum, Aufbau (Berlin, West Germany, 1977.

Die Erde bei Meissen, Reclam (Leipzig, West Germany), 1986.

Veilchenzeit, Ulrich Keicher (Warmbronn, West Germany), 1989.

Stimmenschotter: Gedichte 1987–1992, Ammann (Zürich, Switzerland), 1993.

Wettersturz: Gedichte, 1993–1998 (title means "Weather Fall: Poems 1993–1998"), Ammann (Zürich, Switzerland), 1998.

Also author of Poesiealbum 4, 1968


Die Akte Detlev von Liliencron, Aufbau (Berlin, West Germany), 1968.

(With Herbert Greiner-Mai) Ein Fischer sass im Kahne: die schönsten dt. Balladen d. 19. Jahrhunderts, Aufbau (Berlin, West Germany), 1974, reprinted, 1998.

(With Ulrich Berkes) Vor meinen Augen, hinter sieben Bergen: Gedichte vom Reisen (poetry), Aufbau (Berlin, West Germany), 1977.

With Wilhelm Müller, Rom, Römer und Römerinnen (travel), Rütten & Leoning (Berlin, West Germany), 1978.

With Franz Carl Weiskopf, Unter fremden Himmeln: ein Abriss der deutschen Literatur im Exil 1933–1947: mit einem Anhang von Textproben aus Werken exilierter Schriftsteller, Aufbau (Berlin, West Germany), 1981.

(With Konrad Paul) Deutschsprachige Erzählungen, 1900–1945 (fiction), three volumes, Aufbau (Berlin, West Germany), 1981.

(With Konrad Paul) Liebesgeschichten: von Arthur Schnitzler bis Hermann Broch, Reclam (Stuttgart, West Germany), 1986.

Franz Hodjak, Sehnsucht nach Feigenschnaps, Aufbau (Berlin, West Germany), 1988.

(With Ursula Heukenkkamp and Heinz Kahlau) Die Eigene Stimme: Lyrik der DDR (poetry), Aufbau (Berlin, West Germany), 1988.

Rudolf Hartig Apostel einer besseren Menschlichkeit: der Expressionist Rudolf Hartig (1893–1962), Isele (Eggingen, Germany), 1997.

Wilhelms Haus, Erzählungen, Wartburg (Weimer, Germany), 2000.

(With Holm Kirsten) Stimmen aus Buchenwald: ein Lesebuch (essays), Wallstein (Göttingen, Germany), 2002.

Other works include (editor, with Wolfgang Trampe) Don Juan über Sund (poetry); Heumond: frühe Erzählungen; Es waren zwei Königskinder: eine Auswahl deutscher Volkslieder (folk songs), 1989; and Veränderte Landschaft, [Leipzig, West Germany], 1979. Author's work also represented in anthologies.

SIDELIGHTS: Wulf Kirsten, a German poet and writer, is the son of a stonecutter, and before becoming a full-time writer, he himself worked at a number of different jobs. An editor with the publishing house Aufbau in West Berlin for more than two decades, Kirsten was actually qualified to teach, although he did so for a very short time. He describes his wartime childhood in the 2000 autobiography Die Prinzessinnen im Krautgarten, the title of which which translates as "The Princesses in the Herb Garden."

The title of Kirsten's memoir reflects the author's interest in nature, which had served as the primary theme of his poetry since the 1960s. Kirsten's poems are a realistic mirror of his surroundings; as Jeffrey Adams wrote in a review of the collection Wettersturz: Gedichte 1993–1998 for World Literature Today, Kirsten's landscape poetry is comparable to that of fellow Germans Johannes Bobrowski and Peter Huchel. These poets "avoided fusing nature imagery with transcendent values," as Adams wrote, "preferring to decipher the signs of history and society embedded in the natural world. Nevertheless, the intertextual presence of Romantic precursors in Kirsten's poems sets up a useful contrast between their vision of nature as a set of hieroglyphs revealing nature's transcendent mystery and Kirsten's reinvention of nature poetry as the esthetic transcription of a localized, regional landscape that records the history of its inhabitants."

Kirsten interprets nature using language that paints a picture of rural life in days past, and he writes of those who work in the earth, in contrast to the contemporary tendency to dismiss the lives of simple farmers. He also refers to the effects of militarization and industrialization on German culture. The poems of Wettersturz contain no capitalization or division into stanzas. Instead, according to Adams, they "run on in an uninterrupted stream from beginning to end, creating a monolithic presence on the page…. Kirsten's confidence in his sturdy words is unshaken by the inevitable existential losses and failings of the human condition, which he registers in melancholy but unsentimental tones."



Kirsten, Wulf, Die Prinzessinnen im Krautgarten, Ammann (Zürich, Switzerland), 2000.

Wallace, Ian, editor, Neue Ansichten: The Reception of Romanticism in the Literature of the GDR, pp. 191-211.


German Life and Letters, January, 1987, Axel Goodbody, "Reading Nature's Secret: A Romantic Motif in Wulf Kirsten's Nature Poetry," pp. 158-174.

World Literature Today, spring, 2000, Jeffrey Adams, review of Wettersturz: Gedichte, 1993–1998, p. 406.