Saturday, November 22, 2008

Contemporary German poets

When I was in Pittsburgh Klaus Post gave me a neat collection of contemporary German poetry, Lyrik von Jetzt zwei (the "two" in the title indicating a second installment of an earlier edition of the work of young poets) . Here is a poem I particularly liked, "Geweihe," by Nora Bossong.

Das Spiel ist abgebrochen. Wie sollen wir
jetzt noch an Märchen glauben? Die Äste
splittern nachts nicht mehr, kein Wild,
das durch die Wälder zieht und das Gewitter
löst sich in Fliegenschwärmen auf. Gleichwohl,
es bleibt dabei: Das Jucken unter unsern Füßen
ist kein Tannenrest, kein Nesselblatt, wir folgen noch
dem Dreierschritt, den sieben Bergen und auch
dem Rehkitz Brüderchen und seiner Liebsten.
Erzähl mir die Geweihe an der Wand, erzähl mir
Nadel in die Fliegen. Im rechten Moment
vergaßen wir zu stolpern.
Schneewittchen schläft.

Let me do a loose translation. The title refers to the antlers of deer, though in this case I think she means the kind you see hanging with hunting trophies, as in the vintage photo below.

The game is over [lit. broken off]. How are we still supposed to believe in fairy tales? The branches no longer crack at night, no deer moves through the woods, and the storm dissolves in swarms of flies.

Nevertheless, there remains: the scratching under our feet is not a bit of pine, not a nettle; we still follow the Three Tasks, the Seven Mountains, and Little Brother and his darling. Tell me the story of the  antlers on the wall, tell me the needles in the flies. We forgot to stumble at the right time. Snow White sleeps.

Nora Bossong is writing about the loss of magic in the world. Thus, the fairy tale imagery, the Three Tasks, for instance, referring to the three-stage rhythm of the tale, the hero with three tasks, the princess who dances three times, and so on. The Seven Mountains is where Snow White lived with the dwarves. And Little Brother (in German "Rehkitz Brüderchen) is from the tale of "Brother and Sister," about a brother and sister who escape from a wicked stepmother into a forest, only to have the boy transformed into a deer after drinking from a spring that she has bewitched.

I also recommend Nora Bossong's novel Gegend, a rather mysterious family story, which was highly praised on its appearance in 2006. The younger writers in Germany -- Bossong is twenty-six -- are returning to earlier literary traditions for inspiration, unlike many of the German poets of my generation (the so-called "68"ers), for whom social relevance often came first.

Picture credit: Ookami Dou.

1 comment:

ahaggar said...

wonderful poetry which reveals indeed the actual state in which we find orselves ... people haven't got time to care about magic or even to notice its existence... maybe just the stories told by the elderly at the countryside reveal the magic that once used to animate life because there, as Marin Preda, a Romanian writer, said in one of his novels, "the time is still patient", at least with some...