Saturday, 21 July 2012

what i'm reading


In den Bäumen kann ich keine Bäume mehr sehen.
Die Äste haben nicht die Blätter, die sie in den Wind halten.
Die Früchte sind süß, aber ohne Liebe.
Sie sättigen nicht einmal.
Was soll nur warden?
Vor meinen augen flieht der Wald,
vor meinem Ohr Schließen die Vögel den Mund,
für mich wird keine Wiese zum Bett.
Ich bin satt der Zeit
und hunger nach ihr.
Was soll nur warden?

Auf den Bergen warden nachts die Feuer brennen.
Soll ich mich aufmachen, mich allem wieder nähern?

Ich kann in keinem Weg mehr Weg sehen.

so, as i said, just because i'm not going to be posting that much poetry doesn't mean i'm not reading it or that i won't be posting any! i was flicking thru my wish list the other week when i noticed that amazon had this warehouse clearance thing going on. apparently these are books damaged in storage. and what should i find there but darkness spoken, the collected poems of ingeborg bachmann. For £4! And the damage amounting to barely a crease on the cover. Bargain of the year!

The above poem was the one i opened the book at and instantly knew i was exactly where i wanted to be when i ordered it. I didn't know she had anything to do with paul celan but after reading the foreword and intro it was no surprise that she did, if only briefly.

what's to like? i mention celan because reading this i can feel the same neurons being fired (these in my vestigial german brain!) albeit that she's not so linguistically impervious(?) as celan can be but, at the same time, i still have the sense of reading one thing but it all being about something else entirely. i didn't know much about her. i didn't know she stopped writing poetry so that most of what's in this book was never published in her lifetime. i didn't know how she died.

so what you appear to get is some sort of working back into writing poetry, some sort of poetic exploration of ideas. i really don't have anything else like it. plus there's that other thing that suits scottish speakers (and esp now that any romance languages have withered away to nothing on my tongue) that german seems made for us to read out loud. and these are great to read. filkins translations are approachable but by spealing out loud the prblematic nature of the translation becomes apparent.


Within the trees I no longer can see any trees.
The branches are bare of leaves, carried off by the wind.
The fruits are sweet, but empty of love.
They do not even satisfy.
What shall happen?
Before my eyes the forest fless,
the birds no longer sing to my ears,
and for me no pasture will become a bed.
I am full with time
yet hunger for it.
What shall happen?

Nightly upon the mountains the fires will burn.
Shall I head out, draw near to them once again?

I can no longer see on any path a path.

trans by peter filkins

elswhere in poetryland i've been watching rather than taking part in one of those pointless and circular 'debates' about poetry and rhyming (with a healthy side argument of meter). you can find this all over the place so the side-taking needs no re-iteration. this particular discussion had some interesting points but, as is usual, there was a degree of hand wringing from the poetry=rhyme squad (who, equally, are not quite so handy in the meter discussion) that rhyming poetry isn't being published. aside from that argument being patent tosh you have to wonder if these folk actually read the poetry they're admiring/complaining about!

which lands me at ros barber's the marlowe papers, a novel in verse. i came across this in waterstones of all places when i was on one of my don't need it already own it but it looks pretty book buying browses. opening the cover i knew that i'd be having this immediately. my previous experience with this size of long form poetry, at least from modern times, is most likely limited to fred d'aguiar's bloodlines about which i can remember nothing at this time of the morning but which i liked so much it's made me keen for anyhting remotely similar.

and this is remotely similar. there are a couple of things to get over, it is writeen in verse, yes, but that doesn't mean it has to rhyme even if it often does (see above discussion!). also, and perhaps more pertinently, you have to accept the book's premise which is that christopher marlowe doesn't die but goes into hiding and from there writes the works of shakespeare. this entails a degree of elasticity and, so far, although, i know rnough about this period to be able to point the finger, there's nothing i'm not prepared to set aside to get into the narrative.

and what a ride! i'm eking it out so i don't have to finish it but the act of reading is like being blanketed in language. it takes a bit of reading - this isn't a novel so you can't skim it nor have i wanted to. so far i've resisted any recourse to any history books to chack any background solely because i don't want to spoil my expertience. like the bachmann this is a great book to read out loud because there is no escaping the rhythm that drives the language forward.

my only slight niggle is the construction. it looks lovely but the covers are like a board book and the instant you start reading it wear and tear becomes apparent. maybe that's the intent but i like my books looking pristine so every read is like a tiny bit of destruction! it is brilliant tho so if the phrase novel in verse bakes your poetic biscuit i'd be running out and buying this now.

To the Wise or Unwise Reader

What can a dead man say that you will hear?
Suppose you swear him underneath the earth,
stabbed to the brain with some almighty curse,
would you recognise his voice if it appeared?

The tapping on the coffin lid is heard
as death watch beetle. He becomes a name;
a cipher whose identity is plain
to anyone who understands a word.

So what divine device should he employ
to settle with the world beyond his grave,
unmask the life that learnt its human folly
from death’s warm distance, how else can he save
himself from oblivion, but with poetry?
Stop. Pay attention. Hear a dead man speak.


Rachel Fox said...

I like this kind of post... and the German poem you include... but then I like most things about trees and singing (not necessarily together).

Another argument about rhyme/no rhyme. Missed that one! It can get a bit Groundhog Day...


swiss said...

you didn't miss much!

keep an eye for the marlowe thing tho. think you'd like it. and, while it's been a while and i need to look ta it again, the fred d'aguiar thing was fabulous

Marion McCready said...

oh I'll be adding the Ingeborg Bachmann to my book list, thanks :)

swiss said...

and you won't regret it!