MadHat Press

Seven Notes of a Dead Man's Song by Bernd Sauermann

Seven Notes of a Dead Man's Song is the first full-length poetry collection by Bernd Sauermann. Featuring verse in three parts: "Observator," "Source of My Malady," and Sauermann's extended prose poem "Diesel Generator."


'I have admired Bernd Sauermann’s mysterious poems for decades.  They are not approachable in the way that many, possibly most, poems are.  Sauermann asks for a leap of faith from his readers, a leap which is quickly earned through the sheer brilliance of his language:  "And then years push between us like a throbbing tooth.” “My ears burn with starlight.” “We mouth the equations of clouds whose shadows drift slowly across our root-bound hearts.” “Explain to me again why we subject ourselves to the scrutiny of snow.” “Two figures stand off in the distance. One is indifference and the other is regret.”  “Another curtain parts, slowly revealing a curtain.”  Out of the strangeness of Sauermann’s language, even from these random haunting lines I have quoted, meaning does coalesce.  I cannot say I understand how he makes it happen, but he does, and it is deeply affecting and often moving.  Sauermann works in the prose poem, a form that easily takes shape in French but seldom seems to within the stresses of English.  Yet in Bernd Sauermann’s poignant voice, I hear the music and poetry I never seem to hear from other prose poets.  But perhaps it is because, as he says, he “play[s] the cast iron flutes of the mythic.”  That, I think, is the unique, unfamiliar, yet beautiful sound I have always heard in his work.'

 —The Foreword to Seven Notes of a Dead Man's Song by John Wood


'In the lyric fields Bernd Sauermann has planted, flowers 'bloom like theorems in straight boy/girl boy/girl lines,' cross-pollinated by the rhetorics of the mechanic and meteorologist, of criminology and cowboy films.  A number of these pieces ring with 'the cast iron flutes of the mythic,' not unlike the Merwin of The Miner’s Pale Children.  There is some of Stein’s laconic obsessiveness and echoes of Edson, too, as language waits out the light 'at the corner of triste and giddy.'  Dominating this volume’s second half is the Diesel Generator—equal parts Muse and Id and evil twin, a kind of metapoetic Frankenstein as imagined by Daniil Kharms.  If language is a snake that swallows its own twisting tail, let the Diesel Generator be the rattle in the chest of the man who watches.  Seven Notes of a Dead Man’s Song is a rich and rigorous collection, its absurdities elevated by a lyric intensity that rewards repeated reading.  For once the tender buttons loosen and these sentences shed their skins, bold patterns are revealed, rendered not just with painterly precision but with real human longing—profound and plenty sharp enough to break your heart like an ashtray."

Brett Eugene Ralph, author of Black Sabbatical


"Bernd Sauermann’s poetry collection begins with an epigraph from MacKnight Black’s Machinery, which asks: 'Is death so strong a word now/That over the earth life shall not be worshipped/in the clarity of steel?' With the clarity of steel, in Seven Notes of a Dead Man’s Song, Sauermann forges the sensory with forms both mechanical and human. Images '[rain] on us like whispered yes’s.'—'a midday sun smolders,' 'an eyelash' lurks from 'a dimly lit stairwell,' glass shatters; we witness a 'sense of wonder at the smell of wood smoke,' and a wave rolls 'like the turn of a slender hip.' Aural, tactile, olfactory, visual, and kinesthetic expressions pulse through this meditation on proximity and distance, allowing us to consider language’s ability—and inability—to connect us. Domestic scenes vibrate with constellations. Intimacy is embodied in the smell of ink. Portents provide an intense feeling of presence—a space in which we view all manner of limitations: of language, of the body, of this life. As binaries are blurred in this book between the mechanical or rational, Sauermann creates a logic and legibility of the senses. There are lives to worship before their end; there’s an arrival for every leaving. 'Every flower is new and forever and ever bathed in the glow of a gentle mathematics;' 'seven dead birds take to black flight like seven notes of a dead man’s song.”

—Deborah Poe, author of the last will be stone, too



Born in Hof, Germany, Bernd Sauermann graduated in 1993 from McNeese State University with an MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing (poetry). Since then, Sauermann has taught at colleges in Illinois and Vermont and currently teaches composition, literature, creative writing, and film in the Division of Fine Arts and Humanities at Hopkinsville Community College in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
Bernd is also an associate editor at Posit, an online journal of literature and art, and was the poetry editor at Whole Beast Rag, a now-retired online journal of literature, art, and ideas. He’s had poems, stories and photographs published in the McSweeney’s Book of Poets Picking Poets, McSweeney’s, Southern Indiana Review, New Orleans Review, Nimrod, Poet Lore, the Kansas Quarterly Review of Literature, Leveler, e’Ratio, Vinyl Poetry, and many other publications.



Seven Notes of a Dead Man's Song
by Bernd Sauermann
$18, paperback, 106pp
ISBN-13:  978-1-941196-06-9


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