Black Lawrence Press

Dreamweed: Poems by Yvan Goll


In the last weeks of his life, Yvan Goll was consumed with completing his poems inspired by “das Traumkraut” or the dreamweed. The poems appeared on every scrap of paper he could find—envelopes, prescriptions, newspaper margins—all written “with the tiny birds of his beautiful handwriting.” Poets of many nationalities, including the young Paul Celan, lined up to donate blood so that Yvan could finish his work. But after great suffering and a prolonged battle for his life, Yvan Goll succumbed to death on 27 February 1950. His body was finally laid to rest in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, opposite the grave of Chopin.

In these Dreamweed poems, death becomes Yvan Goll’s familiar, and love is his salvation in a winter world of pain. The snow creates a death mask for him. His body is no longer his body but a hostel for his ancestors’ bones; his heart is plundered for iron; his kidneys are meat for a bloodhound; his flesh is consumed by eternal fire. Yet wandering down the road to death and tumbling down the steps into the ocean of time, Yvan Goll, in the guise of Jean sans Terre, continues to seek and question. Ultimately it is love that sustains him as his earthly body crumbles to dust and his spirit rises from the confines of his hospital bed to soar freely among the stars in the vastness of eternal night.


  • "Yvan Goll's work has been undeservedly underappreciated and I am very glad to know that his Traumkraut will see print."
    —Galway Kinnell
  • "A man face to face with Death has nothing to hide. In these magnificent and stirring last poems, the great Yvan Goll is recording nothing less than the disintegration of the European soul, using the intellectual resources of a highly influential and cosmopolitan imagination. One of the finest and most revered poets of the 20th Century, Goll receives the tender treatment he deserves in these remarkably vivid and masterful translations."
    —Keith Flynn
  • "Nan Watkins brings us the gift of Yvan Goll in English, retaining the poet's enigmatic lyricism and profoundly introspective sensibility. This collection not only brings forth the well-tempered passion of a great poet's voice, but also stands as a remarkable achievement in the art of translation. Focusing on his later poems, Watkins brings the German original into a highly readable English. Dreamweed is ground-breaking--a tribute to Goll and the possibilities of language as alchemical gold."
    —Neeli Cherkovski
  • "These are mystical poems recalling the visions of a dying man, who perceives the despair as well as the incomprehensible beauty of death. The deeply haunting poems of Yvan Goll's final years, here masterfully translated and transplanted into the English by Nan Watkins, describe the strange, rare flower that blooms from the hollow of the poet's skull, poems full of unconditional love, impossible pain, inevitable doubt, towers of forgetting and rumors of a beauty beyond the world we inhabit."
    —Caleb Beissert
  • "Nan Watkins is responsible for bringing this first English translation of the final poems of the brilliant 20th century poet Yvan Goll and such a gift it is. Her introduction to this collection almost stands alone as a novella/biography of this under known poet in the United States. It is extraordinary writing on the part of Nan Watkins!"
  • "Watkins has brought the German across into English more than creditably—and credibly."

Nan Watkins

Author page

Yvan Goll

© Collection du Musée Pierre-Noël, Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, France, cote VIII A 5-4 4033-4 Author page