Partnership: Gerd Puls and Joe Williams

Partnership: Gerd Puls and Joe Williams

Joe Williams and Gerd Puls have been working with translator Anees Malik.

Joe Williams is a writer and performing poet from Leeds. His Saboteur-shortlisted verse novella, ‘An Otley Run’, and the pamphlet ‘Killing the Piano’, are published by Half Moon Books.

Gerd Puls is a prolific poet, essayist and artist born and bred in Dortmund.


On Meanwood Beck                         

At the Institute, Pete - the guy in charge - is trying to introduce his walk. It’s a guided route along a part of Meanwood Beck, with talks highlighting the important role it played in the industrial history of the area. The section we’ll be seeing is now part of Meanwood Park, a woodland retreat in suburban north Leeds. We’ll be an hour and a half, and back here at three for tea and biscuits.

That’s what he’s trying to say, but he’s struggling with interruptions. He’d put out seats for fifteen, but there are already twenty-five in the room, and more arriving all the time. ‘Half dozen more coming in,’ says Arthur, at the door.

Arthur is Pete’s designated “Rear Gunner”, tasked with hurrying along the stragglers at the back. ‘We don’t want Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow,’ Pete says. I don’t think anyone knows what he means.

When we’re finally ready, we file out of the building, into the drizzle that has failed to stop the punters exceeding Pete’s expectations. I raise my hood and follow the leader, down Green Road and into the park. Past the tennis courts, we off-road onto open grass, at about the same time that the rain decides to up its game.

Pete stops under the branches of a solitary tree in the middle of the field. The group is already snaking back a hundred yards to the park gates, Arthur clearly not equal to the job he’s been assigned. ‘We’ll wait here and let it pass,’ says Pete, as they slowly catch up. The branches don’t provide much shelter. A damp sock is reminding me that I need to buy new boots.

The rain hasn’t passed by the time Pete decides it’s time to move on anyway. At the edge of the grass we reach a concrete path, and progress from there onto a muddy, climbing trail into the woods, littered with debris dropped by the overhanging trees. Pete selects a log, apparently at random, and shuffles it ineffectually towards the bushes, disregarding the dozens of other obstacles impeding our passage.

The trail turns into a narrow path of slippery Yorkshire slab. One in four of the flagstones are missing, exposing moss-filled holes. I wonder if Pete is up to date on his public liability insurance. I wonder if Pete has ever heard of public liability insurance.

Surprisingly, we make it to the end of the path and out of the park without any significant casualties. Pete takes us a little way down the road, and gathers us together by an unremarkable wood fence. It takes three and a half minutes for the snake to curl into something resembling a circle. This location, Pete explains, is known as the Roman Well, or Dunny Hill. A voice from the back asks him to speak up. Another complains that the pace is too high. I can’t see who it is. It might be Arthur. At a guess, I’d say we’ve gone three quarters of a mile in forty minutes.

We’re another five minutes along the road before Pete declares that we’ve now reached the official start of the walk, Smithy Mills. The rain has stopped, and the sun is trying to peek from behind the clouds. After the peace of the park, we’re reminded by the noise of the ring road that we’re still in the city. We can’t see it, shrouded by a thick line of trees, but we can hear it. When we’ve grouped up, Pete explains the significance of this site, but most of the details are obliterated by the noise of the traffic behind us. There’s something about an ironworks. Something about Thomas Cranmer. Something, I think, about Scotland.

I can tell from his gestures, if not from his words, that he wants us to walk down the cobbled drive behind him. It looks very much like private property. I make out the phrase “sneak quietly through”, and wonder how many of the other forty people here heard it too. We follow Pete past a brood of chickens and a series of expensive-looking cottages. A dog barks aggressively nearby. I’m relieved to reach the public road without it having torn off one of my limbs in retribution for the trespass.

We circle back into the park by a different entrance, turn to the left and proceed through a kissing gate, painfully slowly, into an area designed for picnics. We’re an hour in, and yet to catch a glimpse of Meanwood Beck. Pete introduces his next point of interest, under further protests about his lack of volume. There is, it seems, something of note further up the hill, but every time he tries to tell us about it, he turns his back on us, pointing into the distance, shouting into the wind, so none of us will ever find out what it is. Arthur has discovered a pair of glasses in the undergrowth. ‘I bet they don’t know they’ve left those there,’ says Pete. I have no idea what he considers the feasible alternative might be.

We head back through the kissing gate, eventually, and drop down to a puddled mud path. There, we at last locate the elusive beck. We follow the path alongside the stream, inhaling the freshness of wild garlic. Pete waits at a wooden bridge, gathering the group together again. ‘It’s come out nice now,’ he says, gazing up at the bluening sky. I watch a Labrador splashing in the hissing, rising water.


Eleven poems


Kein Ort, keine Bleibe

Wir ziehen weiter

Kein Ort, keine Wohnung

Sag mir, wohin?


Kein Ort, keine Bleibe

Wir ziehen westwärts

Komm, lass uns bleiben

Wohin sollen wir sonst?


Hier liegt die Kohle

Hier gibt es Arbeit

Wohin denn sonst?

Wir bleiben hier


Die Leute sind freundlich

Die nehmen uns auf

Per Gesetz verpflichtet

Dass sie uns nehmen



Lautet das Wort

Die Leute sind freundlich

Die haben doch selbst nichts


Die Kammer unter dem Dach

Der Wind pfeift durch die Ritzen

Nachdem der Bomber

Im Garten runterfiel


Das Dach notdürftig repariert

All die Flieger, die Detonationen

Die Wände haben gewackelt

Klar, vom Kohleabbau auch


Die kleine Kammer unterm Dach

Auf Dauer keine Bleibe

Und täglich kommen mehr

Wohnraum ist knapp


Wir schreiben das Jahr

Des Herrn 1950, alles zerbombt

5 Jahre Frieden, 5 Jahre Flucht

Komm, lass uns bleiben


Nun bauen sie das Haus

Nebenan, unscheinbar und grau

Wie alle Häuser hier, doch Platz

Für 4 Familien immerhin


Hintendran die Schuppen

Platz für Hühner, Karnickel

Fahrräder und Gerümpel bald

Kinder, wie die Zeit vergeht


Ich kannte jeden in dem Haus

Erzählt der alte Mann

Mit den Blagen habe ich

Gespielt und einmal hat mich


Der Hund gebissen, bin ich

Von der Mauer gefallen

Die Nachbarmädchen

Haben mich ins Haus getragen


Die Familien kannte ich alle

Die haben lange dort

Gewohnt, 62 zum Beispiel

Die große Sturmflut


Und wir hatten schon

Einen Fernseher, die Nachbarn

Haben von ihrem Fenster

In unseres geguckt


Die Überschwemmung gesehn

Die Menschen auf den Dächern

Die Hubschrauber und Boote

Grau in grau das Wasser, die Flut


Von unserm Fenster aus

Auf ihrem kleinen Bildschirm

Erzählt der alte Nachbar

Vor Jahren verstorben


Neue Mieter in dem Haus

Die kommen und gehen,

Bleiben nur kurz, Kinderweinen

der Mann im Unterhemd

die keifende Frau


Von denen kannte ich

Bald keinen mehr

Erzählt der alte Mann

Ein Kommen und Gehn


Nun steht es leer

Das Nachbarhaus, in die Jahre

Gekommen, keiner, der da was macht

Reichlich Renovierungsbedarf


Leerstand zur Zeit, wer will

Da schon wohnen? Keine Mattscheibe

Die schwarzweiß flimmert

Keiner, der aus dem Fenster winkt


Morgen kommen die Makler

Über den Zaun


Mein Nachbar ist ein

ungeduldiger Mann

der nicht abwarten kann

dass ich die Hecke schneide


Mein Nachbar ist ein

mürrischer Mann

der knurrend verlangt

ich soll die Bäume fällen


Mein Nachbar ist kein

sparsamer Mann

täglich setzt er seine

lärmenden Geräte ein


Mein Nachbar ist ein

geiziger Mann

seine Maschinen

gönnen mir keine Ruh


Mein Nachbar ist ein

ordentlicher Mann

mit millimeterkurzem Rasen

morgen ist der trocken und dürr


Mein Nachbar ist ein

sauberer Mann

frischgeputzt glänzen

Auto und Fensterscheiben


Mein Nachbar ist ein

neugieriger Mann

guckt gerne rüber

was ich wohl treibe


Mein Nachbar ist ein

armer alter Mann

der nicht weiß, wie er

seine Zeit totschlagen soll


Mein Nachbar ist ein

offener Mann

wie gerne würde er

mir was erzählen


Mein Nachbar ist ein

kluger Mann, er weiß

genau, dass ich ein 

schlechter Nachbar bin


Im Garten


Die langen Schatten

der Bogenlampen

fließen langsam und still

über die Straße

unter die alten Apfelbäume

im Garten meines Vaters

gleiten durch das hohe Gras

feucht vom Abend


hinter der Autobahn

steigen fremde Inseln auf

versinken schnell

bleiben soll

der Duft vom Rosenbeet

der schwarze Wald

hinterm Haus

das Läuten der Zechenbahn


bleiben soll

das warme Licht

im Nachbarhaus

die rote Bank

auf der wir dicht

beisammen sitzen

der lange Schatten

des Förderturms


Von weit her


Marek Matuschek

Bauernsohn weit hinter Krakau

kam vor 100 Jahren

ins Ruhrrevier

mit ihm

viele andere


Oller Pollak

riefen sie

komm uns nich

so nah


er blieb

und seine Kindeskinder

arbeiten noch

am Kohlenstoß


treffen da

Kemal Kilicaslan

Bauernsohn aus Anatolien

kam vor 30 Jahren

ins Ruhrrevier

mit ihm

viele andere



rufen sie

komm uns nich

so nah








Wohnraum brauchen die Zechenherren

für die neuen Bergleute von werweißwoher

über Nacht sind sie nun da

herbeigesehnt wie die Kohle

von der man weiß, dass sie hier liegt

schon in 600 Metern ergiebige Flöze


ein billiges Fundament muss her

ein Zufahrtsweg, paar Fuhren Bauholz

liefert der Graf aus seinem Wald, seinem Sägewerk

Baracken gezimmert auf die Schnelle

dünne Wände, die Dächer geteert

mehr haben wir nicht, mehr brauchen die nicht


fünf Baracken in langer Reihe, immer sechs

Familien in dunklen Räumen unter niedriger

Decke, feuchte Wände, kleine Fenster

schmale Türen, durch die passt nun wirklich

kein protzig ausladendes Eichenbuffet, wozu auch

das Brot im Schapp, im schmalen Fliegenschrank


rasch noch schwarze Schlacke aus der Kokerei

nebenan aufschütten nach hinten raus

wo die Haustüren und Kohlenkisten sind

wenns regnet saufen die sonst ab, oder im Frühjahr

wenn es taut eine einzige Wüste aus Matsch

und Schlamm, da müssen sie durch


zu Schuppen und Ställen, wo die Plumpsklos sind

daneben der Verschlag für die Ziege, eventuell

fürs Schwein, mit Pultdach die Ställe hinter dem Hof

hinter den Wohnbaracken, du musst dich bücken

so niedrig die Türen, die Wände noch dünner

pfeift der Wind durch jede Ritze


bescheidene Behausungen 70, 80 Jahre lang

mehr schlecht als recht bis nichts mehr geht

Holzbock und Schimmel endgültig

gewonnen haben, Abriss also, der Pütt  war

doch schon viel früher dicht, frag mich nicht

wer da gewohnt hat die letzten Jahre

12.30 bis 13.15 Uhr


Mittagspause, raus aus dem Büro

Ein Stück über den Westenhellweg

Frische Luft, ein Mettbrötchen und ein Bier


Mittagspause, drüben vor der Schaufensterreihe

Des Kaufhausriesen steht die neue Kollegin

Kauft etwas Obst für den Nachmittag


Wir winken, lächeln schüchtern, ein Blick

Auf die Uhr, Zeit, zurück an die Arbeit zu gehen

Morgen machen wir gemeinsam Mittag






die Stadt liegt leer

über dem Parkplatz

kalter Wind und letzte Lichter

im Grau des Abends

ich starte den Wagen

reihe mich ein in die Kolonne

weiß dass du wartest

warmes Licht hinter der Scheibe

du öffnest die Tür

zur Begrüßung ein Kuss

eine kurze Umarmung

Wie war dein Tag?

Ich bin zu Haus



Unsere Spuren


Unsere Spuren

werden wir nicht los

heute nicht und morgen

nicht bei euch

und nirgendwo

ein Stück Brot

ein Stück Erde



lasst uns

finden Schlafstatt und Tisch

lasst uns

finden einen Ort

und Wolken






Wenn gekommen sind

die Stunden der Wölfe

unsere Tage gezählt

sind wir auf dem Weg

kommen weit her

oder nah

doch stets

mit verbrannten Augen



Andere Zeit


Wenn wir

die Grenzen hinter uns lassen

und nicht gleich wieder in Lager

gepfercht werden wie Vieh


wenn wir

die Grenzen hinter uns lassen

verschont bleiben vor Hassparolen

Baseballschlägern, Stiefeltritten


wenn wir

ruhig durchatmen können

kühlen Wind von der See im Gesicht

unter den Sohlen Sand, weich und warm


stehen wir am Ufer

einer anderen Zeit





Wie die Farbe

deiner Haut auch sei

die Fahne

deines Landes:


getreten, gestoßen

jenseits von Liebe

kommst du

nirgendwo an


 JOE WILLIAMS has written responses to some of Gerd’s poems as well as making ‘Erasures'. Here is what Joe says about the process:

Here are my "translations" of (some of) Gerd's work. Not all direct translations - one I have reinterpreted to move it to Leeds, and with some I've taken what I got from Anees and made erasure poems from that next, so they don't, on the surface at least, have much to do with the originals.

'Over the fence' is a translation of 'Über den Zaun'.
'From far away' is a translation of 'Von weit her'.
'Dwelling, Erased' is derived from 'Behausung'.
'Half twleve while quarter past one' is a translation/retelling of '12.30 bis 13.15 Uhr'.
'Back' is derived from 'Heimfahrt'.
'Refuge, Erased' is derived from 'Zuflucht'
'Nowhere' is a translation of 'Nirgendwo'.

Over the fence


My neighbour is

an impatient man,

who cannot wait

till I cut the hedge.


My neighbour is

a grumpy man,

who grumbles, demands

I chop down the trees.


My neighbour is

a wasteful man.

Every day he turns

on noisy gadgets.


My neighbour is

a selfish man.

With his machines

there is no peace.


My neighbour is

a tidy man.

His tight-trimmed lawn,

turns dry and barren.


My neighbour is

a clean man,

with sparkle-polished

car and windows.


My neighbour is a

a curious man

who likes to check

on what I’m up to.


My neighbour is

a poor old man,

who has few ways

to pass the time.


My neighbour is

an open man

who would love to tell me

endless stories.


My neighbour is

a clever man.

He knows it is me

who is the bad neighbour.

From far away


Marek Matuschek,

a farmer’s son from far beyond Kraków,

100 years ago,

came to the Ruhr,

and with him came

many more.


Oller Pollak,

they called him.

Go back

from wherever you came.


But he stayed,

and his grandchildren

worked the same

coal face.


There they met


Kemal Kilicaslan,

a farmer’s son from Anatolia, who,

30 years ago,

came to the Ruhr,

and with him came

many more.



they called him

Go back

from wherever you came.

Half twelve while quarter past one


Lunch break, and out of the office

for a stroll along Briggate,

fresh air, a sandwich, a coffee.


Lunch break, and over by Harvey Nicks’ window,

I spot my new colleague,

smoking a cigarette


I raise a hand in greeting, smile,

glance at my watch. Time to go back.

Tomorrow we will eat together.



No matter what

colour your skin,

or the flag

of your country,


when beaten, kicked

beyond love,

you can never

belong anywhere.


AND HERE ARE ALL ELEVEN POEMS BY GERD PULS TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH BY ANEES MALIK, some of which were used by Joe to write his own English versions:


Old House

No place, no staying here

We move onwards

No place, no apartment

Tell me, where to?


No place, no staying

We move westwards

Come, let us stay

Where else do we go?


This is where the money is

This is where work is available

Where else to go?

We will stay here


The people are friendly

They take us in

Bound by the law

They must take us in


Forced housing

They call it

The people are friendly

They themselves have nothing


The space under the roof

The wind howling through the cracks

After the bomb

Fell in the garden


The makeshift roof

The planes, the explosions

The walls had shaken

But also because of the the coal mining


The little room under the roof

No permanent lodging

With more every day

Living space is scarce


We write the year

of the year 1950, everything destroyed

5 years of peace, 5 years of escape

Come, let us stay.


Now they build the house

Next door, it is bland and grey

Like all houses here, but a home

For four families at least

At the back with the sheds,

Space for chickens, rabbits

Bicycles and junk soon

Kids, time passes fast


I knew everyone in the house

Recounted the old man

Who, with my kids,

Played and once


The dog bit me, I fell

Off the wall

The girl next door

Had to carry me home


I knew all the families

They had lived there a

Long time, since 1962

The big storm tide


And we already had

A television, the neighbours

Had looked through their window

Into ours


The floods we saw

The people on roofs

Helicopters and boats

Grey into grey water, the tide


Through our window

On their little screen

Recounted the old neighbour

Who died years ago


New tenants in the house

The come and go

Short stays, crying children

The husband in a vest

And a nagging wife


Soon I did not know

Any of them

Recounted the old man

You come, and you go


Now it is empty

The house next door outdated

No one does anything

Though it needs renovation


Vacant at the time, who would want           

to live there anyway? No ground glass

That flickers black and white

No one waving out of the window


The agents will be here tomorrow

Over the fence

My neighbour is an

impatient man

who cannot wait until

I cut the hedge


My neighbour is a

grumpy man

who grumbles and demands

I cut the trees down


My neighbour is not a

thrifty man

every day he

turns on his noisy machines


My neighbour is a

selfish man

his machines

do not give me any peace


My neighbour is a

tidy man

with a very short lawn

tomorrow it will be dry and barren


My neighbour is a

clean man

freshly polished, buffing

car and windows


My neighbour is a

nosey man                           

who likes to look over

and see what I might be doing


My neighbour is a

poor old man

who does not know how he

should pass his time


My neighbour is an

open man

who would love nothing else than

to tell me stories


My neighbout is a

clever man, he knows

very well that it is me

who is the bad neighbour



In the Garden

The long shadows

of the arc lamp

slide slowly and silently

over the road

under the old apple trees

in my father’s garden

glide through the long grass

damp from the evening


behind the highway

foreign islands rise up

sink quickly

what should remain is

the fragrance from the bed of roses

the black forest

behind the house

the ringing bells of the railway


what should remain

the warm light

in the house next door

the red bench

on which we sat

closely together

the long shadow

of the shaft tower


From a place far away

Marek Matuschek

a farmer’s son from far beyond Krakau

came 100 years ago

into the Ruhr

and with him were

many more


Oller Pollak

they called him

don’t come too close

to us


he stayed

and his grandchildren

still worked

at the coal face



Kemal Kilicaslan

a farmer’s son from Anatolia

came 30 years ago

into the Ruhr

and with him were

many more



they called him

don’t come to close

to us



The Zechenherren need a place to live

for the new miners from god-knows-where

over night they just appeared

longed for coal

which we all knows lies down here

already in 600 metres of productive pipes


a cheap foundation must come,

a driveway, a few drove some lumber

the count delivered from his forest, his sawmill

barracks put up in a hurry

thin walls, tarred roofs

we do not have more, they do not need more


five barracks in a long row, always six

families in dark rooms below a low

ceiling, damp walls, small windows

narrow doors, which really fits

no showy oak buffet, what is

the bread in the schnapp for anyway, in the narrow fly cabinet


lastly, the black slag needs to be brought from the coking plant

next door to pour it out down the back quickly

where the front doors and coal boxes are

if it rains they will die, or in the spring

when it dews a single desert of mud

and slush, they will have to go through it


to get to the sheds and stables, where the outhouses are

next to it the shed for the goats, eventually

for the pig, with pitched roof the stables behind the yard

behind the residential barracks, you have to bend down

the doors are so low, the walls even thinner

The wind whistles through every crack


modest dwellings for 70, 80 years

worse than good until nothing works anymore

wood ticks and mould finally

win, demolition then, the Pütt used

to be very well sealed, do not ask me

who lived there in the last years

From 12.30 until 13.15

Lunch break, get out of the office

Take a walk over the Westenhellweg

Fresh air, a bread roll and a beer


Lunch break, over there in front of the shop windows

Of the giant department store stood the new colleague

Buying some fruit for the afternoon


We wave, laugh shyly, a glance

at the clock, Time to go back to work

We will have lunch together tomorrow



End of work

the city is empty

over the parking lot

a cold wind, the last light

in the grey of the evening

I start the vehicle

line myself up

know that you’re waiting

warm light behind the screen

you open the door

a welcoming kiss

a short hug

How was your day?

I am home


Traces of us

Our tracks

will not fade

not today and not tomorrow

not with you

and nowhere

a piece of bread

a piece of earth



let us

find a place to sleep and a table

let us

find a place

clouds float inland.




When the hour

of the wolf arrives

our days will be numbered

bound as we are on the journey

having come a long way

or short

and yet

always with burnt eyes


A different time

If we were to

leave the boundaries behind

and were not immediately put

back in the wagons like livestock


if we were to

leave the boundaries behind

after the beatings up at hate rallies

baseball bats, boot kicks


if we were to

breathe calmly

feel the cool breeze of the sea in our faces

with the sand beneath our feet, soft and warm


We would be stood on the shore

of another time




No matter the colour

of your skin

of the flag

of your country:


kicked and pushed

beyond love

you will never

arrive anywhere 







Joe Williams: Refuge, Erased.

Joe Williams: Refuge, Erased.

Joe Williams: Dwelling, Erased.

Joe Williams: Dwelling, Erased.

Joe Williams: Back, Erased.

Joe Williams: Back, Erased.

Gerd Puls

Gerd Puls

Partnership: Eva von der Dunk and S.J.Bradley

Partnership: Eva von der Dunk and S.J.Bradley