After all, my erstwhile dear, /
My no longer cherished, /
Need we say it was not love, /
Just because it perished

(Edna St. Vincent Millay)

A House for Poems

“A house for poems is a beautiful idea, although, the more you think about it, also a difficult one to put into practice.” These words appear at the start of Martin Mosebach’s speech at the opening of the new building in March 2005. The idea was now reality: tucked away behind the main buildings of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, the Lyrik Kabinett is one of the architectural treasures of Munich’s Maxvorstadt district.

At night the passageway from Amalienstraße to the building set back from the street is lit up in poetic blue. Cobblestones whisper “Poesie,” wall panels murmur lines of poetry: riddles of passage. Beyond the courtyard overgrown with ivy, the airy library facade consisting almost entirely of windows welcomes the visitor. An old art studio stood on the lot before it was taken over by the Foundation and the library preserves the ground plan of its predecessor’s outer walls. The architect Henning Dickhoff of the Munich a+p architectural practice has created rooms that surprise for their unexpected views and use of natural lighting.

Three figures—by Horst Antes, Karl Manfred Rennertz, and Lothar Fischer—watch over the building outside. Inside the library is an early torso by Fritz Wotruba, works by the Munich artists Armin Saub, Eugen Kellermeier, and Wilhelm Holderied, drawings by h.c. artmann and Susan Weil, a large woodcut by Georg Baselitz, also the word game “Ricordi di Laura” designed by Hans Magnus Enzensberger, and woodcuts by Josua Reichert. Selected library treasures, including artists’ books and art object books, are displayed in vitrines.

Those visiting and using the function room enjoy the company of international poets in photographs by Isolde Ohlbaum: Les Murray, John Ashbery, Hermann Lenz, Sarah Kirsch, Paul Wühr, Christoph Meckel, Lars Gustafsson, Ilse Aichinger, Oskar Pastior, Andrea Zanzotto, Raoul Schrott, Friederike Mayröcker, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Inger Christensen, and many others who have likewise read at the Lyrik Kabinett.

The rear door of the library opens on an almost enchanted little terrace overgrown with ivy and bamboo; table and chairs make it an ideal spot in summer to read or to talk with friends after a reading.