Hollywood Elegies

By Bertolt Brecht 1898–1956 Bertolt Brecht

Translated from the German by Adam Kirsch Read the translator's notes

Under the long green hair of pepper trees,
The writers and composers work the street.
Bach’s new score is crumpled in his pocket,
Dante sways his ass-cheeks to the beat.


The city is named for the angels,
And its angels are easy to find.
They give off a lubricant odor,
Their eyes are mascara-lined;
At night you can see them inserting
Gold-plated diaphragms;
For breakfast they gather at poolside
Where screenwriters feed and swim.


Every day, I go to earn my bread
In the exchange where lies are marketed,
Hoping my own lies will attract a bid.


It’s Hell, it’s Heaven: the amount you earn
Determines if you play the harp or burn.


Gold in their mountains,
Oil on their coast;
Dreaming in celluloid
Profits them most.

Source: Poetry (June 2011).


This poem originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2011


Bertolt Brecht was one of the most influential playwrights of the 20th century. His works include The Threepenny Opera (1928) with composer Kurt Weill, Mother Courage and Her Children (1941), The Good Person of Szechwan (1943), and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (1958). Brecht was born in Augsburg, Bavaria, in 1898, and the two world wars directly affected his life and works. He wrote poetry when he was a student but studied . . .

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SUBJECT Activities, Jobs & Working, Arts & Sciences, Theater & Dance, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture


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