Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 11 January 2016

  • He was easy to get…


    He was easy to get.
    It was possible on the second evening.
    I waited till the third (and knew
    I was taking a risk).
    Then he said, laughing: it’s the bath salts
    Not your hair.
    But he was easy to get.

    For a month I left him straight aftermaking love.
    Every third day I stayed away.
    I never wrote.
    But store up snow in a pot
    It gets dirty all the same.
    I did more than I could
    When it was already over. I threw out the bitches who weresleeping with him

    As though I didn’t mind
    I did it laughing and crying.
    I turned on the gas
    Five minutes before he arrived, I
    Borrowed money in his name:
    It did no good.

    But one night I slept
    And one morning I got up
    I washed myself from head to toe
    Ate and said to myself:
    That’s it now.

    Truth is:
    I slept with him twice more
    But by God and my mother
    It was nothing.
    Like everything else
    It passed.


    by Bertolt Brecht; translated by David Constantine

    'He was easy to get ...', which was originally published in German in 1960 as ‘Es war leicht ihn zu bekommen…’, is translated by David Constantine. Copyright © 1960 by Bertolt-Brecht-Erben / Suhrkamp Verlag, from Love Poems by Bertolt Brecht, translated by David Constantine and Tom Kuhn, and published by Liveright Publishing Corporation (2015). It is used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.

    This poem is the penultimate one in our series featuring work from collections shortlisted for The Poetry Society’s Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize 2015, judged by Olivia McCannon and Clare Pollard, and supported in 2015 by the British Council. The winner of the competition was Iain Galbraith, who translated Jan Wagner’s book Self-Portrait with a Swarm of Bees (Arc Publications, 2015). You can find out more about the competition and all the shortlisted books on the Poetry Society website.

    David Constantine is a freelance writer and translator. His most recent volume of poetry is Elder (2014); his fourth collection of short stories, Tea at the Midland, won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award in 2013. You can read more about his work on the Poetry Archive website.

    Bertolt Brecht is widely considered the greatest German playwright of the twentieth century, and to this day remains best known as a dramatist, the author of Mother CourageThe Threepenny Opera, and The Caucasian Chalk Circle, among so many other works. However, Brecht was also a hugely prolific and eclectic poet, producing more than 2,000 poems during his lifetime—indeed, so many that even his own wife, Helene Weigel, had no idea just how many he had written. Written between 1918 and 1955, these poems reflect an artist driven not only by the bitter and violent politics of his age but, like Goethe, by the untrammeled forces of love, romance, and erotic desire. Read more about the book on the Norton website.

    Liveright Publishing Corporation is an imprint of W.W. Norton, that is a home for outstanding works that define and redefine our culture, and that continue to provoke interest and inspire readers around the world. Find out more about Liveright here.

    Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.