Max Henninger

note of absence

Image by Holden Flosi

AFTER E. H.  *
we've stopped reading the 
paper. we're waiting  
               for s/thing to happen. 

we've locked out the sun watch this  
tower of days collapse: 

some nights we smile into  
our pillows. our sleep is  
                        full of rain.

*published in volume VII (Winter 2020) of Déraciné Magazine

an application an insurance 
proposal two tax assessment 
notices some international  
bank account numbers you 
look defeated she said test  
patterns across both of her 
eyes this quavering frame this 
closedown my own lack of
resolution listening to 
water drip through the  


all things reliquial 
like the word gun 
wale. stillest of

sat w/ feet on sill thought  
man have you painted  
your self into  
a corner. 
some sadness 
where to 
put it?
morning sun bright cold 
clinical | symmetry 
of ascent come 
down a 

cheap-ass taunt. 

*First published in RIVISTA Magazine

our citizen of no 
where must now  
hit the silk will  
say though from  
her self's terra  
nullius your no  
horse town et  
ketamine & free  
jazz passing out  
w/ the lights on  
the water run 
ning an 

other knock 
on the door

*First published in RIVISTA Magazine

another need, another circle.  
another fall, perhaps  
an accident.
(home statistically, et  

a scattering, an
angry surge. 

Max Henninger is a writer and translator based in Berlin. His poetry has appeared in journals and zines including Datableed and Spam. He recently released a 60-minute cassette tape of poetry and music with German experimental music duo poesi fysik. IG: @tower_of_days


Why poetry?

A question I often ask myself! I come from prose and didn’t begin to read or write poetry in earnest until about five years ago. If you had told me around 2017 that I would soon be devoting a fair amount of my time to poetry I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Friends of mine in Berlin run a performance space called the Garage. It’s literally a garage on Karl-Marx-Straße, one of the busier streets in the Neukölln neighborhood. I went there one night to pick something up while UK poet Sean Bonney, who had moved to Berlin a few years before, was reading from what later became his final collection, Our Death. I was in a bad mood and didn’t really talk to anyone, though I did listen to Sean read. A few days later, certain lines from his poems were still going around my head. I decided to contact him and we met for beers. We became friends. He showed an interest in my writing and encouraged me to try my hand at poetry, in addition to pointing me to other poets he suggested I familiarize myself with. When I had a few poems of my own, he invited me to read with him at Loophole, another Neukölln venue. People liked it and it was great fun. That got the ball rolling. A number of things impressed me about Sean’s poetry and spurred me to try to write poetry myself. His delivery was a big part of it. Very musical, very jazzy. Also, the conciseness and force of his imagery and his irreverent humor (often underappreciated). But mostly the way he found a uniquely incisive language for his experiences and convictions. He was always a deeply political poet. It seemed to me there was simply no better way to articulate certain experiences than the kind of poetry he wrote.

How long do you usually spend on a single poem? 

It varies. The first poems I wrote and published were written in one sitting, with virtually no subsequent revisions. I often find that if the first draft doesn’t work, more or less, I can revise as much as I like; I’ll never be satisfied with that particular poem. I tend to cut my poems down quite severely when revising, and often there’s so little left by the end of that process that I tend to just discard it. Though I do revise more than I used to these days. I may may go back to a poem for months.

Who are you currently reading? 

I try to keep up with what’s published in UK journals and zines such as FieldnotesDatableed and Spamalso Tripwire from California. I like the work of Lotte L.S., also the work of Sara Larsen. Dimitra Ioannou is wonderful. I’m halfway through Festivals of Patience, Kim Stefans’ translation of Rimbaud’s verse poems, published by Kenning Editions. The last collection I read was Rob Halpern’s Hieroglyphs of the Inverted World, also published by Kenning Editions. Really good. As for earlier poets, I read a fair amount of Kenneth Rexroth’s work over the Christmas holidays and was very taken by it. His work moves me to tears.

What poets do you take inspiration from? 

Aside from the poets I’ve already mentioned and in particular Sean Bonney, who remains far and away my most important inspiration, the Beats were very important when I was getting started. This was partly because they’d been an influence on Sean in his early years and he was rereading them when I befriended him. A list of poets I keep going back to would have to include Stephen Jonas, Diane di Prima, Amiri Baraka, David Henderson, Gary Snyder and Ed Dorn. But there are many others.

Where does a poem usually start for you? 

A sense of urgency. Once the poem is done, I can usually identify the experiences that went into it and the process by which those experiences coalesced into something unitary that required or seemed to me to require expression. But it starts with something more undefined and the strong sense that I need to work it out now because I may not get another chance. I never know when it’s going to happen.

What poem should I read my daughter for bed tonight? (She’s 7 years old by the way!) 

“I” from “A Bestiary” by Kenneth Rexroth.

Do you have any other projects you want us to know about? 

I’m very happy that Mychael Zulauf of Akinoga Press wants to publish a series of prose poems I wrote last year called “Poems for Two Voices.” That won’t be coming out until late 2023 or early 2024 though. I’ve been working on a new cycle of poems called “the future.” One of them will appear in the journal Strukturriss this summer. I’m trying to find publishers for a novel called Strange Dreams, a novella called Calendarium and a collection of short stories called Sudden Death. I’ve also been writing a series of very short stories that play around with science fiction tropes. I think of them as science fiction satires. They’ve proven a good way of processing the insanity of our historical conjuncture. I certainly have a lot of fun writing them.