poetry is easy: make something out of nothing

poetry is easy: make something out of nothing

to begin with, here is nothing, hiding somewhere
in the o

on your way to kindergarten you carry a pink
umbrella, an antique lampshade, a fairytale turtle
under which you are invisible and I think

you wink to the man in the traffic light to go green
you hurtle. you are not hiding. nothing can be seen

poetry is easy: make something out of nothing was originally published on Meandering home


Poetry is a kind of distilled insinuation. It’s a way of expanding and talking around an idea or a question. Sometimes, more actually gets said through such a technique than a full frontal assault. – Yusef Komunyakaa

was originally published on Meandering home

Reading: Eating Poetry by Mark Strand

This poem by prominent American poet Mark Strand (1934-2014) was just delicious in its simplicity. I quote from the website of Poetry Foundation:

Eating Poetry
Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.
The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.
The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.
Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.
She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.
I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.
Strand is known for his fine literary language, which won him a Pulitzer Prize for poetry. In this poem, the very first image with the ink running from the corners of his mouth evokes vampires who have been eating poets, not poetry. Could he not wipe his mouth clean with an handkerchief? Or has he eaten the handkerchief as well, because somebody wrote a poem on it? It’s a nicely silly image, the old poet in the library. When he introduces the librarian and thus takes the nonsense seriously, it’s a fun effect. We see the sad lady who doesn’t know how to ‘handle’ (her hands are in her dress) the situation.
Enter the dogs. Alright, now things are getting serious. Some bloodhound gang has smelled what is going on and is coming up. With the poems gone, they have nothing to fear here. Or are they friendly dogs? The rolling eyeballs of the dogs and their blond legs burning ‘like brush’ are visually powerful, but I refuse to read anything biblical in  the burning brush.
Of course the librarian doesn’t understand: This is surrealism! And en passant Mr. Strand has turned into a dog himself, or thinks he has, because he still has knees. It scares the hell out of her. And let us just smile about the imagery, and withold a pompous symbolic interpretation, in which the absence of poetry turns us into animals. The final lines are well crafted: snarl – bark – dark. What is a bookish dark and why is it so joyful for Mark? Is it simply because he has literally incorporated the poems, or because the absence of the poems clears the way for other literary forms (Strand did doubt his own poetry and he has tried other formats).

Reading: Eating Poetry by Mark Strand was originally published on Meandering home

Profession: poet

I am a poet. Where do I work?
In a bank.
In a bakery.
At a gas station.
At a convenient store
Or in a flower shop.

The people just need me around
While they go about their business,
I sit in silence
I don’t say a word

but the people know
they know a poet is observing them
and that is what makes them want
to live their lives.

Profession: poet was originally published on Meandering home

Reading: Verwandlung by Georg Trakl

Today I read a poem by my famous German expressionist, Georg Trakl (1887-1914). I couldn’t find a translation of die Verwandlung online, so I created one myself. There is a website where you can contribute poetry translations, and I added this one. This is what the great German, who died at 27 (sounds familiar) from an overdose of cocaine, looks like through my lense:

Along the gardens, scorched with the crimson colors of the fall:
We see the life of a diligent man.
Who carries the brown grapes in his hands,
While in his look the sullen pain descends.

In the evening: Steps sound on the dark ground
Appearing in the silence of a red beech.
A blue beast wants to bow before death
And an empty garb decays in horror.

In front of a tavern music softly plays,
A drunken face lies buried in the grass.
elderberries, soft flutes and the feminine,
around which the scent of sweet reseda sways.

I quote the German original:

Entlang an Gärten, herbstlich, rotversengt:
Hier zeigt im Stillen sich ein tüchtig Leben.
Des Menschen Hände tragen braune Reben,
Indes der sanfte Schmerz im Blick sich senkt.

Am Abend: Schritte gehn durch schwarzes Land
Erscheinender in roter Buchen Schweigen.
Ein blaues Tier will sich vorm Tod verneigen
Und grauenvoll verfällt ein leer Gewand.

Geruhiges vor einer Schenke spielt,
Ein Antlitz ist berauscht ins Gras gesunken.
Holunderfrüchte, Flöten weich und trunken,
Resedenduft, der Weibliches umspült.

So, what do we have? Autumn gardens with beautiful reddish colors and a diligent (‘tüchtig’) man who picks the newtestamentical ‘brown grapes’. The habit makes this bearable, the human condition is one of soft pain. In the evening, a blue animal (this is a recurring theme in Trakl, and I can’t help thinking of the Blue Man group and Avatar) comes to die. His soul is separated from his body, since what stays behind is an empty robe/garb (leer Gewand). Christian one might say, however: grauenvoll is the decay.

But the people don’t notice: The music that is played in front of the tavern (the autumn is not too cold) is ‘geruhig’. Someone smashed face down in the grass, and even the flutes are inebriated. This is clearly Dionysian and probably influenced by Nietzsche. The smell of reseda/mignonette is something Trakl remembers from Salzburg. The transformation is quite obviously the change from the ‘sanfte Schmerz’ of the habitual, tough life to the bacchanal that is held in denial of death.

I couldn’t get the rhyme to work in English. Perhaps you have a suggestion? Meanwhile, if you like Trakl, I found some other Trakl poems in English translation here.


Reading: Verwandlung by Georg Trakl was originally published on Meandering home