Tag Archives: poem

Under the Linden Tree

literatur_2015_gold-2

This blog post is part of the German Literature Month, hosted by Lizzie (Lizzies Literary Life) and Caroline (Beauty is a Sleeping Cat)

Very little is known about the life of Walther von der Vogelweide, the most remarkable German poet before Goethe; neither the birthplace of this troubadour (Minnesinger) – probably in Austria, but maybe also in Northern Italy –  nor his exact years of birth (ca. 1170) and death (ca. 1230) are known. He was obviously the loyal servant of a bishop and was rewarded with an amount of money sufficient for an expensive fur coat once – the only official mentioning of his name in the records and proof of his comparatively elevated social status.

Walther’s poetry is written in Middle High German (Mittelhochdeutsch) which is surprisingly intelligible to modern-day native speakers – especially when you are from Southern Germany or Austria. It covers a number of topics and genres but his love poetry features most prominently. While a big part of it worships an aristocratic, married and therefore inaccessible frouwe from a distance, Walther’s poetry also covers other, to us modern readers more familiar grounds that make his charming poems still very fresh and appealing until this day. I am therefore recommending his works to anyone with a genuine interest in German literature.

In the following Taglied the poet lends his voice to a girl after her spending a night with her lover (most probably a man of higher social status).

Under der linden

Under der linden
an der heide,
dâ unser zweier bette was,
dâ muget ir vinden
schône beide
gebrochen bluomen unde gras.
Vor dem walde in einem tal,
tandaradei,
schône sanc diu nahtegal.

Ich kam gegangen
zuo der ouwe:
dô was mîn friedel komen ê.
Dâ wart ich empfangen
(hêre frouwe!)
daz ich bin sælic iemer mê.
Kust er mich?
Wol tûsentstunt:
tandaradei,
seht wie rôt mir ist der munt.

Dô hete er gemachet
alsô rîche
von bluomen eine bettestat.
Des wirt noch gelachet
inneclîche,
kumt iemen an daz selbe pfat:
bî den rôsen er wol mac,
tandaradei,
merken wâ mir’z houbet lac.

Daz er bî mir læge,
wesse’z iemen
(nu enwelle got!), so schamte ich mich.
Wes er mit mir pflæge,
niemer niemen
bevinde daz, wan er und ich,
und ein kleinez vogellîn:
tandaradei,
daz mac wol getriuwe sîn.

Under the linden tree

Under the linden tree
on the heather,
where we shared a bed
there you may find
lovely together
broken flowers and grass.
Near a forest in a vale,
tandaradei,
beautifully sang the nightingale.

I came to meet him
at the green:
there was my beloved come before.
Such was I received
(Queen of Heaven!)
that I am blessed for evermore.
Did he kiss me?
Perhaps a thousand times and some:
tandaradei,
see how red my mouth has become.

There he had been making
for luxury
a bed from every kind of flower.
It sets to laughing
delightedly
whoever comes upon that bower;
by the roses well one may,
tandaradei,
mark the spot my head once lay.

If someone knew
he lay with me
(may God forbid!), for shame I’d die.
What did he do?
may none but he
ever be sure of that — and I,
and one tiny bird,
tandaradei,
that may well not say a word.

(Translation by Thomas Hübner, after Graeme Dunphy)

Walther von der Vogelweide

For those who read German, I can recommend the edition of Walther’s poetry in the legendary Reclam Universal Edition (bi-lingual, High German/Middle High German), Stuttgart 2013 (“Gedichte – Auswahl”); there is an English edition “Selected Poems of Walther von der Vogelweide: The Minnesinger”, translated by Walter Alison Phillips in 1896 and republished by Cornell University Library in 2009; another more modern translation of the poem in English can be found in Raymond Oliver’s “To Be Plain: Translations from Greek, Latin, French, and German”, Robert L. Barth, 1981

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-5. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Poetry of Thomas Kling

literatur_2015_gold-2

This blog post is part of the German Literature Month, hosted by Lizzie (Lizzies Literary Life) and Caroline (Beauty is a Sleeping Cat)

Ten years ago, the arguably most outstanding representative of this generation of German-language poets, Thomas Kling, passed away at the age of 47. With his almost encyclopedic knowledge of many subjects, including literature, history, geology and his rich language he created “poetic installations” that are particularly gripping in their polyphony when read by an experienced performer that make his poetry sound like spoken music; Kling was an impressive stage performer (a “Rampensau” as we say in German) and if you can you should look not only for a collection of his poetry, but also for a CD with poems read by himself.

As always with poetry, a translation can only give a pale reflection of the original, and many of the most elaborated poems of Kling are simply untranslatable; but I want to give at least a small impression by presenting you translations of three comparatively conventional poems by Thomas Kling (in his very special orthography):

porträt JB. fuchspelz,
humboldtstrom, tomatn

(ca. ‘72)
düsseldorf, aufm schadowplatz. Eines
vormittags, im niesel. hinterm tapezier-
tisch im fuxxpelz im mantel. hab ich so
aus einiger entfernung hinter flugzetteln
gesehn; da macht ich BLAU eines vor-
mittags unter -strom

(ca. ’75)
humboldtgymnasium, düsseldorf. ich sachs
euch: WIR BEKAMN HUMBOLDTSTROM. Doctor
august peters, (GESCHICHTE) zu meinem zuspät-
kommndn freund roehle:          ZIEHN SIE DEN BEUYS
AUS! SEIN MANTEL WAR GEMEINT.

 (’77)
kassel. installation der HONIGPUMPE. ein-
leitung von sauerstoff, daß honigfluß wir
sehn konntn. mittags, vorm friderizianum
bat ich den lagerndn mann bat ich die angler-
weste um den tagschatten gibst du mir
die TOMATN und kam zu mir sein tomatnhant!

From: Thomas Kling: brennstabm, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 1991

portrait JB. fox fur,
humboldt current, tomatos

(ca ’72)
düsseldorf, on schadow square. One
morning, in the dizzle. behind the trestle
table in a fox fur in a coat. I saw
from a distance behind leaflets;
I was skiving off one morning
under –current

(’ca 75)
humboldt school, düsseldorf. I’m telling
you: we got humboldt current. Doctor
august peters, (HISTORY) to my friend roehle
who was late: TAKE OFF YOUR BEUYS!
HE MEANT HIS COAT.

(’77)
kassel. HONIGPUMPE installation. in-
sertion of oxygen, so that honey stream we
could see. Afternoon, in front of fridericianum
I begged the warehousing man begged the fishing
jacket for the day’s shadow will you give me
the tomatoes and to me came his tomato hand!

Translation by Noël Reumkens, Trans 8/2009
——————————————————————————–

SERNER, KARLSBAD

wo in angesagter umgebun’ 
di zensur ihr sprudeln begann.

zentralgranitmassn. 
geselchter schnee. nichts

wußte ich, zweiundsiebzig, 
von einem haus edelweiß wo

mattkaiserschrunde oder ocker-
gestimmte, oder sonstwi-erinnerun’:

“sprich deutlicher” 
in karlovy vary

. . . di (mittags?)sonne, geschwächt, 
in spiegeln mitgeteilt wurd; wo

der becherovka in geschliffenen 
gläsern und rede auf di marmor-

helligkeit knallte, karlsbad-sounds: 
“o sprich deutlicher” in geselchtm

schnee, und “jedes hauptwort ein 
rundreisebillet.”               SERNER

der ging von prag aus 
gemeinsam ins gas.

From: Thomas Kling: morsch. Gedichte, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 1998

SERNER, KARLSBAD

where even in posted areas
the censors babbled.

tall granite masses.
smoky snow. I knew

nothing, seventy-two,
about edleweiss, ocher

houses of the emperors’ realm,
or an otherwise-remembrance:

“speak more clearly”
in karlovy vary.

. . . the (midday?) sun, weakened,
reflected by mirrors; where

the schnapps served in cut glass
and the talk bounced around

the shining marble. karlsbad sounds:
“o, speak more clearly” in smoky

snow, “every noun
a round trip ticket.”           SERNER

who left prague as well
headed for the gas.

Translation by Peter Filkins, Poetry Magazine Oct/Nov 1998

——————————————————————————–

LARVEN
 
1913 sind auf Papua-Neuguinea die ströme und
gebirge längst nach den Hohenzollern benannt.
 
der kopf der fremde schnurrt und liefert, für neue
ferne dinge neue namen wobei die sprachn sich
 
vermischen, im mund der fremdes neues schmeckt
wie kopra oder kasuar. das passt zum helm. so
 
dampfen neue masken aus den sumpf-eiländern
auf die feierliche zunge abendland. die gaumen
 
segel knattern frisch ein wind aus übersee, berlin –
die zunge – erhebt als frische toteninsel sich aus
 
dem fiebersumpf der mark. die insel schnalzt schon
kommen worte aus der ferne. südfrüchte fallen
 
der stadt aus dem mund. der ist die neue zunge so
gesprächig. anders irgendwie: es sprechen alle plötzlich
 
wie die papuas, hofsprache iatmul. der mund als Über¬
see, als schein, so strömt der sepik mündet in den rhein.
 
From: Thomas Kling: Fernhandel, DuMont, Köln 1999
 
LARVAE

In 1913 the currents and mountains in Papua-New Guinea
are named after the Hohenzollern since a long time.

the head of the foreign land hums and provides for new
distant things new names in which the languages

are mixing, in the mouth that tastes strange new things
like copra or cassowary. that fits to the helmet. Thus

are steaming new masks from the swamp-islands
on the solemn tongue occident. the soft

palate rattles freshly a wind from the outlands, berlin –
the tongue – rises as fresh island of the deaths from

the fever swamp of the Mark. the island clicks already
words are coming from the distance. tropical fruits are falling

from the mouth of the city. the new tongue of hers is so
talkative. somehow different: suddenly everybody speaks

like the papuas, court language iatmul. the mouth as over-
sea, as glow, thus streams the sepik flows into the rhine.

Translation by Thomas Hübner

It would be great to see an edition of Selected Poems by this author in English!

Kling

Thomas Kling: Gesammelte Gedichte, DuMont, Köln 2006

Kling2

Thomas Kling: Die gebrannte Performance, Audio Book, 4 CDs, Lilienfeld, Düsseldorf 2015

© Thomas Kling, Suhrkamp Verlag and DuMont Verlag, 1991-2006
© Peter Filkins and Poetry Magazine, 1998
© Noël Reumkens and TRANS, 2009
© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-5. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Gespräch

Meine Übersetzung des Gedichts Gespräch von Ivanka Mogilska wurde auf der deutschen Website von Public Republic veröffentlicht.

Dank an Natalia Nikolaeva und Tsvetelina Mareva.

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-5. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 


Drei Gedichte von Tanja Nikolova

и без въпроси, моля
 
седим и пием след работа
защото той иска да се самоубие
тъпо
но ние сме там –
приятелите
една мижава алтернатива на смъртта
и се шегуваме
и пеем
и пием…
основно пием
опитваме се да измислим
за него
и за себе си
доводи за живот:
“- Животът е хубав!”
(е добре де…не е)
но…
“-Трябва да се живее!”
защо???
…ами…
пием
…а любовта?
а бе…
………………
я наздраве!
……………….
любовта не е живота
животът в ХУБАВ и ТРЯБВА
(като лозунг)
вярвай!
и без въпроси,
моля…
 

 

und ohne fragen, bitte
 
wir sitzen und trinken nach der arbeit
weil er sich umbringen will,
dumm
aber wir sind da –
die freunde
eine schäbige alternative zum tod
und wir scherzen
und singen
und trinken…
vor allem trinken
wir versuchen
uns für ihn
und für uns selbst
gründe fürs leben auszudenken:
“- Das leben ist schön!”
(na ja … ist es nicht)
aber…
“Man muss leben!”
warum???
…ach komm…
wir trinken
…und die liebe?
hör doch auf…
………………
na dann prost!
……………….
die liebe ist nicht das leben
das leben ist SCHÖN und MAN MUSS
(wie eine losung)
glaub es!
und ohne fragen,
bitte …

……………………………………………………………………………………

 

песен
 
твоята кухня, мила,
е моят аеродрум
летя, летя
вино, сирене и музика
ах, каква музика!
вълшебно е от лекота
но ти знаеш, мила,
с теб летя
 

 

lied
 
deine küche, liebes,
ist mein flugplatz
ich fliege, ich fliege
wein, käse und musik
ach, was für musik!
magisch ist die leichtigkeit
aber du weisst schon, liebes,
mit dir fliege ich

……………………………………………………………………………………
 
 
Писмо до Кабул
 
написах писмо
цяла страница ситен шрифт
за децата, за къщата, за приятелите
объркано и простовато
писмо
зa малките неща
които са големи, големи
по-големи от всеки стих
представям си как четеш и се усмихваш
и се смалявам
до сълза
 

 

Brief nach Kabul
 
ich schrieb einen brief
die ganze seite in delikater schrift
über die kinder, das haus, die freunde
verwirrt und seicht
ein brief
über die kleinigkeiten
die groß, groß sind
größer als jeder vers
ich stelle mir vor, wie du ihn liest und lächelst
und vergehe 
vor tränen

 

kora_Tolkoz1

Tanja Nikolova: Tolkoz (Толкоз), Literaturen forum, Sofia 2007

Aus dem Bulgarischen von Thomas Hübner

© Tanja Nikolova and Literaturen forum, 2007
© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-5. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Fünf Gedichte von Ivanka Mogilska

Разговор
 
Думите са бавни.
Черно-бели.
Спрели.
После тръгнали
в погрешната посока.
 
Gespräch
 
Die Worte sind langsam.
Schwarz-weiss.
Gestoppt.
Gingen dann
in die falsche Richtung.

—————————————————————-

Мечтание в 10 Секунди
 
Невъзможните дни
ги заравят
като черупки от охлюви.
После пясъкът бяга
да се дави в морето.
 
Träumerei in 10 Sekunden
 
Die unmöglichen Tage
vergrabe sie
wie Schneckenhäuser.
Danach flieht der Sand
um im Meer zu ertrinken.

—————————————————————-
 
За Страха
 
Птиците се събраха.
Гарванът даде знак.
Екзекуцията започна.
Бесеха ловеца,
който уби лисицата.
 
Zum Fürchten
 
Die Vögel versammelten sich.
Der Rabe gab Zeichen.
Die Hinrichtung begann.
Gehängt wurde der Jäger,
der den Fuchs tötete.

———————————————————————–
 
Библейски Мотив
 
Железни са правилата на бога:
Не лъжи!
Не кради!
Не убивай!
Не пожелавай жената на ближния!
Не е казано само какво да правиш,
ако жената те пожелае.
 
Biblisches Motiv
 
Ehern sind Gottes Gebote:
Du sollst kein falsches Zeugnis ablegen!
Du sollst nicht stehlen!
Du sollst nicht töten!
Du sollst nicht begehren deines Nächsten Weib!
Nur wird nicht gesagt, was zu tun ist,
wenn dessen Frau dich begehrt.

——————————————————————————-
 
Краят на лятото
 
Самотен гларус
е останал да целува
на пясъка лицето.
 
Das Ende des Sommers
 
Eine einsame Möwe
ist verblieben um das Antlitz
des Sandes zu küssen.

Mogilska

Ivanka Mogilska: DNA (Иванка Могилска: ДНК), Janet45, Plovdiv 2004

Übersetzung aus dem Bulgarischen von Thomas Hübner

© Ivanka Mogilska and Janet45 Izdatelstvo, 2004
© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-5. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ein Gedicht von Neli Dobrinova

neli

упражнения за ляв бял дроб
 
бащите идват, слушат новините, гледат спорта
и си тръгват
преди прогнозата за времето
реша още влажните коси на дъщеря си
почукай на дъжда
и ще ти отвори вятърът, с когото винаги сме доверчиви
като долната и горна устни
 
зад костения порцелан на зъбите
езикът чака да бъде подарен –
прегънат на фуния, през която да издишваш воя
на стадо единаци,
или да го превърнеш в звук от върбова пищялка –
прабабата на флейтитe
 
току-що събудена муха изпъква
между стъклото
и книгата уникат
вълшебства на инстинкта

 

übungen für den linken lungenflügel

die väter kommen, hören die nachrichten, schauen sport
und gehen
vor der wettervorhersage
ich bürste das noch nasse haar der tochter
der regen klopft
und ich werde dir öffnen wind, der uns immer vertraut war
wie die unter- und oberlippe

hinterm porzellan der zähne
wartet die zunge darauf, sich zu zeigen –
zum trichter gefaltet durch den man ausatmet heulen
der einsamen herde,
oder umgeschaltet auf den ton der weidenpfeife –
die urgroßmutter der flöten

die gerade erwachte fliege steht
zwischen dem glas
und dem einzigartigen buch
magie des instinkts

 

aus:
Neli Dobrinova: Malki mazhki igri (Нели Добринова: Малки мъжки игри), Pergament Press, Sofia 2014
Aus dem Bulgarischen von Thomas Hübner

 

© Neli Dobrinova and Издателство Пергамент Прес, 2014.
© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014-5. Unauthorized use and/or 
duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

The Kraus Project

glm_iv1

This review is part of the German Literature Month, hosted by Lizzie (Lizzies Literary Life) and Caroline (Beauty is a Sleeping Cat)

The Kraus Project by Jonathan Franzen is a hybrid book.

It contains on the upper part of each page on the left side the original German text of four essays and a poem by the Austrian author Karl Kraus, mirrored by the English translation of the respective text on the opposite right page.

On the lower part of each page are numerous footnotes that are sometimes longer than Kraus’ text itself.  The footnotes are partly by Jonathan Franzen, partly by the Kraus scholar Paul Reitter, partly by the German-Austrian novelist Daniel Kehlmann, like Franzen an admirer of Kraus. Franzen is also the translator of Kraus’ texts.

Since Karl Kraus is almost unknown in the English-speaking world, the publisher obviously thought it a good idea to bring this book on the market with Jonathan Franzen as author on the title page. But again, this book is a translated and annotated collection of some of Kraus’ texts.

A few words about Karl Kraus:

coming from a wealthy assimilated Jewish family, Kraus grew up in Vienna at the end of the 19th century. Vienna was at that time a melting pot of people and ideas. Literature and theater (two lifelong passions of Kraus) were at its height, Sigmund Freud developed psychoanalysis that revolutionized later many aspects of our lives, Mahler and Schönberg revolutionized music, Adolf Loos, Kraus closest friend revolutionized architecture, the Vienna school of economists revolutionized economics, the Vienna Circle and Ludwig Wittgenstein revolutionized philosophy. All kind of modern ideologies came to light in that period in Vienna, including the “modern” racial Antisemitism and its natural reaction, Zionism, whose main propagandist was the journalist Theodor Herzl, a former colleague of Kraus who would become one of his most hated targets.

“Vienna’s streets are paved with culture; the streets of other capitals are paved with asphalt”,

is a popular aphorism by Kraus.

In this hotbed of culture and ideologies the typical Kaffeehauskultur developed where each faction of intellectuals had their favorite coffeehouses where they met and engaged in group and cartel building, gossiping, writing and reading. Kraus was part of this culture, but never belonged to any group. One of his most remarkable features is that he successfully obtained his absolute independence during all his intellectual life.

Kraus’ main “work” are the roughly 40,000 pages of his journal Die Fackel (The Torch), which he published between 1899 and 1936. In the first years, he admitted every now and then guest authors but from 1912 on, he wrote the journal exclusively by himself.

Die Fackel had a blog-like feel: Kraus’ was publishing whenever he had something to say and about whatever he felt he needed something to say. Although literature and theater were always prominent topics in Die Fackel, Kraus was an avid reader of the Austrian and foreign press – and from here he took most of his inspirations.

Kraus was writing about foreign and local policy, about the situation of workers in the factories, about women’s rights, he was an early advocate of equal rights of homosexuals, and he was an everyday observer of the journalism in Austria, which was in an extremely bad shape according to Kraus.

This opposition to the frequently badly written journalism made Kraus many enemies, especially since he combined it with irony and sarcasm, but also with undeniable truths. His lawyer was for sure a very busy man and it is said that Kraus won almost all his court cases. He knew the rules and acted within these rules very efficiently to expose corruption, nepotism, stupidity and wrong use of language.

He did all this in a unique style, frequently playing with words and creating a richness of aphorisms that may be rivaled only by Lichtenberg. He was also a stage persona: he gave more than 700 performances reading, singing, acting alone on a stage – his audience consisted mainly of addicted Kraus fans; Elias Canetti for example said in his autobiography that he visited more than 300 of Kraus’ unique performances. Kraus must have been a magnetic personality that had many people under his spell.

The two main pieces in The Kraus Project are Kraus’ most famous essays on the German-Jewish poet Heinrich Heine and on the Austrian playwright Johann Nestroy.

Heine is for Kraus on the one hand a great and extremely popular poet. Many of his poems were turned into popular songs and are part of the folk poetry. But Heine’s followers turn his spirit into something superficial. And this is not by accident, it is because of specific virtues in Heine’s works. In Kraus’ times there was a firm belief of many intellectuals that there was a deep difference between Romance and German culture. As Kraus put it:

Two strains of intellectual vulgarity: defenselessness against content and defenselessness against form. The one experiences only the material side of art. It is of German origin. The other experiences even the rawest of materials artistically. It is of Romance origin. To the one, art is an instrument; to the other, life is an ornament. In which hell would the artist prefer to fry? He’d surely still rather live among the Germans. For although they’ve strapped art into the Procrustean Folding Bed of their commerce, they’ve also made life sober, and this is a blessing: fantasy thrives, and every man can put his own light in the barren window frames. Just spare me the pretty ribbons!…”

Austria, although linguistically part of German culture, is for Kraus deeply affected by the “French” poet Heine. Even the biggest Anti-semites “forgave” Heine his Jewish origin, just because his verses appeal so much to the tendency of most of the Vienna literati to gloss over everything with patches of jokes and irony. (I owe The Kraus Project the information that young Adolf Hitler in his Vienna years supported an initiative to build a monument for Heine – Heine’s poems were later not removed from the school books in Nazi Germany, just his name; it was all supposed to be “folk poetry” then).

While the Heine essay is very acerbic in it’s evaluation of the poems of this great German writer, the big hater Kraus shows in the other main essay that he can be also a great admirer and lover: he re-discovers the Austrian actor, singer, playwright Johann Nestroy, a popular performer of the first part of the 19th century who fell into oblivion soon after his death.

That Nestroy is nowadays considered to be one of the greatest authors for theater in German  is almost exclusively a result of the decades of Kraus’ efforts to make him again popular. I love Nestroy’s plays, and there is hardly anything (with the exception of Shakespeare, and the obscure play Datterich by Ernst Elias Niebergall, written in Darmstadt dialect) that I enjoy more on a stage than his plays. To me, the Nestroy essay is Kraus’s best essay – the Heine piece, although very interesting, shows also a side of Kraus that is not very appealing: the text is not free from Anti-semitic slurs.

Franzen’s translation is a heroic and brave effort and mostly very decent in my opinion. Kraus is extremely difficult to translate and that he tackled this task deserves a lot of respect.

The footnotes are frequently related directly to the text. Paul Reitter adds a lot of his knowledge about Kraus, much to the profit of the reader. Also many of Franzen’s and Kehlmann’s footnotes are interesting. The one thing that surprised me was that Franzen is dragging the reader a lot into his personal life during the time he lived in Germany and Austria as a student. We learn many details about the person Jonathan Franzen, including the story of his failed first marriage, and a short bout of mental illness when he was in Germany. If you like Jonathan Franzen as an author (I do), you might as well enjoy this part of the annotations, but if not you will have to skip some of them. I am still wondering if it wouldn’t have been better to split the book in two: a translation of Kraus only, and a longer essay with Franzen’s view of Kraus.

Kraus was a larger-than-life author. His play Die letzten Tage der Menschheit (The Last Days of Mankind) is about 800 pages long. The Kraus Project gives some insight in part of his work, but those who would like to discover the full Kraus and also the Vienna of his times (because most of his work can be only understood from the context) should maybe read in parallel also Carl Schorske’s excellent book Fin-de-siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture.

Let me close with a poem by Karl Kraus in which he explains why he kept silent for a long time after the Nazis took power in Germany:

Let no one ask what I’ve been doing since I spoke.
I have nothing to say
and won’t say why.
And there’s stillness since the earth broke.
No word was right;
a man speaks only from his sleep at night.
And dreams of a sun that joked.
It passes; and later
it didn’t matter.
The Word went under when that world awoke,

Man frage nicht, was all die Zeit ich machte.
Ich bleibe stumm;
und sage nicht, warum.
Und Stille gibt es, da die Erde krachte.
Kein Wort, das traf;
man spricht nur aus dem Schlaf.
Und träumt von einer Sonne, welche lachte.
Es geht vorbei;
nachher war’s einerlei.
Das Wort entschlief, als jene Welt erwachte.

kraus-project

Jonathan Franzen: The Kraus Project, Fourth Estate, London 2013

Carl Emil Schorske: Fin-de-siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture, Vintage 1980

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Simple Art of Poetry

I admit it: I have a preference for poems written in a simple, almost sparse language. And that say many things with comparatively few words.

Günter Eich’s Inventur (Inventory) was one of the first examples of this kind of poetry I came across when I was very young.

Inventur


Dies ist meine Mütze,
dies ist mein Mantel,
hier mein Rasierzeug
im Beutel aus Leinen. 

Konservenbüchse:
Mein Teller, mein Becher,
ich hab in das Weißblech
den Namen geritzt. 

Geritzt hier mit diesem
kostbaren Nagel,
den vor begehrlichen
Augen ich berge. 

Im Brotbeutel sind
ein Paar wollene Socken
und einiges, was ich
niemand verrate, 

so dient es als Kissen
nachts meinem Kopf.
Die Pappe hier liegt
zwischen mir und der Erde.

Die Bleistiftmine
lieb ich am meisten:
Tags schreibt sie mir Verse,
die nachts ich erdacht. 

Dies ist mein Notizbuch,
dies meine Zeltbahn,
dies ist mein Handtuch,
dies ist mein Zwirn. 

 

Inventory
 
This is my cap,  
this is my overcoat,  
here is my shave kit  
in its linen pouch.  

Some field rations:  
my dish, my tumbler,  
here in the tin-plate  
I’ve scratched my name.   

Scratched it here with this  
precious nail  
I keep concealed  
from coveting eyes.   

In the bread bag I have  
a pair of wool socks  
and a few things that I  
discuss with no one,  

and these form a pillow  
for my head at night.  
Some cardboard lies  
between me and the ground.   

The pencil’s the thing  
I love the most:  
By day it writes verses  
I make up at night.   

This is my notebook,  
this my rain gear,  
this is my towel,  
this is my twine. 

(Translated by Joshua Mehigan)

Later I discovered many other interesting and beautiful examples of this genre. There are of course too many to quote them all, so I will just present a very few examples here:

Open House

My secrets cry aloud.
I have no need for tongue.
My heart keeps open house,
My doors are widely swung.
An epic of the eyes
My love, with no disguise. 

(Theodore Huebner Roethke a distant relative)

Another one:

Was ich habe, will ich nicht verlieren, aber
wo ich bin, will ich nicht bleiben, aber
die ich liebe, will ich nicht verlassen, aber
die ich kenne, will ich nicht mehr sehen, aber
wo ich lebe, da will ich nicht sterben, aber
wo ich sterbe, da will ich nicht hin:
Bleiben will ich, wo ich nie gewesen bin.

 
What I have, I don’t want to lose, but
where I am, I don’t want to stay, but
the one I love, I don’t want to leave, but
the ones I know, I don’t want to see again, but
where I live, I don’t want to die, but
where I’ll die, I don’t want to go:
I want to stay where I have never been. 

(Thomas Brasch, translated by Thomas Hübner) 

The following poem is already a kind of modern classic:

Was es ist
 
 Es ist Unsinn
sagt die Vernunft
Es ist was es ist
sagt die Liebe
 
Es ist Unglück
sagt die Berechnung
Es ist nichts als Schmerz
sagt die Angst
Es ist aussichtslos
sagt die Einsicht
Es ist was es ist
sagt die Liebe
 
Es ist lächerlich
sagt der Stolz
Es ist leichtsinnig
sagt die Vorsicht
Es ist unmöglich
sagt die Erfahrung
Es ist was es ist
sagt die Liebe
 
What it is
 
It is nonsense
says reason
It is what it is
says love
 
It is misfortune
says calculation
It is nothing but pain
says fear
It is hopeless
says insight
It is what it is
says love
 
It is laughable
says pride
It is frivolous
says caution
It is impossible
says experience
It is what it is
says love 

(Erich Fried, translated by Gwilym Williams) 

 And here is a quite famous example:

This is Just to Say
 
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
 
and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast
 
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold  

(William Carlos Williams) 

The shortest possible form of a poem is of course the haiku. Therefore here some examples from the great master of the haiku genre, Matsuo Basho:

Waking in the night;
The lamp is low,
The oil freezing.
 –
 It has rained enough
To turn the stubble on the field
Black.

 Winter rain
Falls on the cow-shed
A cock crows.

 The leeks
Newly washed white,-
How cold it is!

 The sea darkens;
The voices of the wild ducks
Are faintly white.

Ill on a journey;
My dreams wander
Over a withered moor. 

(translated by Robert Hass)

These are examples by well-known or even famous authors. But frequently lesser-known (but equally gifted) poets produce works that deserve to be noted, read, distributed and recommended. And I don’t want to conclude this short choice of poems without giving the floor to a poet that is probably unknown to most of you. I discovered this author only recently, after a close friend presented me a copy of his newest collection of poetry. I am talking about the Bulgarian poet Vladislav Hristov (born 1976), and his book Fi (Фи). (Thank you, Eli! And thank you, Vladislav Hristov, for the dedication in my copy!).

Hristov is undoubtedly one of the best haiku poets of our times: 

изгонената котка
само тя
видя звездопада
 
cat shooed away
only she saw
the meteor shower 

(Translated by Maya Lyubenova)

Also in his new collection the tone is laconic, sparse, but always evocative:

дясната ръка
държи книгата
лявата
ръката на любимия
всяка нова страница
е раздяла
 
the right hand
holds the book
the left
the hand of the beloved
each new page
is shared

снимането на ангел
е много лесно:
просто кажи обичам те
преди да натиснеш копчето
 
photographing an angel
is very simple:
just say I love you
before you press the button

сънувах тарковски
седнал на пода
в детската ви стая
андрюша какво правиш тук
той мълчи
вцепених се от ужас:
ами ако ме попита
същото
 
I dreamt Tarkovsky
sat on the floor
in your children’s room
andryusha what are you doing here
he was silent
frozen in horror:
what if you asked me
the same 

(Translations by Thomas Hübner)

Vladislav Hristov is an extraordinarily versatile and talented poet/photographer/artist. He writes also interesting short prose, and it would be nice to see more of his works translated and published in other languages.

Ergo Books, his Bulgarian publisher, is to be congratulated for the efforts they are undertaking to promote contemporary Bulgarian poetry. Beside from Vladislav Hristov, they publish also the poetry of Jana Punkina, Miroslav Hristov, Jordanka Beleva, Dimana Ivanova, Palmi Ranchev, Maria Vasileva, Margarit Zhekov, Kamen Kostov, and Ivaylo Ivanov, amongst others.

Fi

 Vladislav Hristov: Fi, Ergo Books, Sofia 2013 (in Bulgarian language)

 

Günter Eich: Abgelegene Gehöfte. Schauer, Frankfurt am Main, 1948 (transl.: Poetry, Apr2009, Vol. 194, Issue 1, p37)

Theodore Roethke: Open House. Knopf, New York, 1941

Thomas Brasch: Die nennen das Schrei. Gesammelte Gedichte. Suhrkamp, Berlin, 2013

Erich Fried: Es ist was es ist. Wagenbach, Berlin 1983 (transl.: http://poet-in-residence.blogspot.com/2009/06/coming-soon-erich-fried.html)

William Carlos Williams: The Collected Poems, Volume I, 1909-1939. New Directions, New York, 1991

Matsuo Basho: Poems, e-book 2004 (http://www.poemhunter.com/i/ebooks/pdf/matsuo_basho_2004_9.pdf)

 

© Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without expressed and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Thomas Hübner and mytwostotinki.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.