Esther Kinsky

Slates - Poems

(German title: Schiefern)
ca. 103 pages
Esther Kinsky
Foto: Esther Kinsky
© Heike Steinweg

Esther Kinsky was born in Engelskirchen in 1956. She has been awarded numerous prizes for her extensive oeuvre, which includes translations from the Polish, Russian and English as well as poetry, essays and works of fiction. Grove was awarded the Leipzig Book Fair Prize 2018.

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Esther Kinsky’s new book is dedicated to slate, the polymorphic, versatile sedimentary rock, and to the Slate Islands, a small archipelago off the West coast of Scotland. For centuries, slate was mined on those islands that are part of the Inner Hebrides and they are lastingly shaped by the intensive industry that was abandoned many decades ago and that has left behind a bizarre landscape of debris and flooded quarries.

The poems and short prose texts of this three-part volume explore questions of early geological history and of the definitions of the islands’ metamorphic rock, address the flora and the birds in an area of inhospitableness, and touch upon the story of the people involved in the hard work of slate mining based on an old school photograph. Side by side with the explorations of nature and history, the texts deal with human memory, which is a similar »metamorphite« to slate, a construct of layers in flux, subject to unpredictable and elusive changes.


»The title Slates already suggests the unfathomable beauty of Esther Kinsky’s poetry.« Angelika Overath, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

»The way Kinsky lets those erosive forces affect her language is sublime at times. That’s when the brittle edges of the slate resemble the verses and the prose that appears ›cracked, splintered, scaled‹.« Wolfgang Hottner, Süddeutsche Zeitung

»With Slates, Esther Kinsky presents […] brilliant nature poetry that proves that it can indeed incorporate biographical moments, formally complex and diverse, phonetically polished and sophisticated, sprinkled with neologisms and technical vocabulary, but never aloof but very tellurian, ›with both feet on the ground‹, soulful but always with the sober gaze of the observer. This is exquisite poetry and a rare highlight of intellectual indulgence.« Jürgen Brôcan, Fixpoetry

»With the way Kinsky’s poems pierce through the layers of time, they create a new, unfamiliar look onto the present.« Der Sonntag

»There is not a word to much, everything is unshakeable in its place when [Esther Kinsky] describes the things she has seen on three journeys over the course of twenty years to an island in the Scottish Hebrides.« Konrad Holzer, Buchkultur

»We are dealing with an arcanum, compelling and expressive in every syllable!« Björn Hayer, Bücher Magazin

»Kinsky’s language is always a phonetic wonder. Stringing together chirping consonants and breathy vowels, her sentences have a sound to which one willingly submits. Essentially Kinsky is a musician, playing letters instead of notes.« Rheinische Post

»The quality of Esther Kinsky’s writing is so good that you cannot fail to be spellbound by it.« The Modern Novel on River

»No matter whether Kinsky describes things, foreign people or landscapes, the surplus love she has at her disposal becomes visible in the sensitive prose in which she sees the world.« Hans-Peter Kunisch, Süddeutsche Zeitung on River

Other publications

Hain/Grove (2018)

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English world rights (Fitzcarraldo), Spanish world rights (Periférica), France (Grasset), Italy (Il Saggiatore), Netherlands (Uitgeverij Pluim), Ukraine (Knihy XXI)