Hilde Domin (1909–2006) grew up in a Jewish family in Cologne, Germany. As a student of political science, she anticipated Hitler’s rise to power and fled Germany in the 1930s with her future husband, Erwin Walter Palm. They spent over twenty years in exile, mainly in the Dominican Republic (‘Domin’ is a nom de plume which honors her self-described ‘second birth’ as a poet during their time there), before finally settling in Heidelberg.
Domin’s poems deal with displacement and return (Hans-Georg Gadamer famously described her as the ‘poet of homecoming’), and her staunch effort to hold onto her ‘domicile in the German word,’ as she put it. She has also written incisive essays on the exile experience and the dangers of fascism. For Domin, poetry constituted a life-affirming ‘in-spite-of’ in response to the crisis of language and meaning that the Holocaust had brought about—an assertion of the persistence of humankind and the capacity of language to set us free. In the current political moment, her work once again feels profoundly relevant and important. (2020)