Archive for May, 2021

In a dream just before waking, I was asked/tasked to make a piece of writing that had three levels of meaning.
I cannot recall who the asking person was, the situation, or any other details.
What I do remember is the line I began with:

As I passing by the evening gate

And then, of course, I woke.

Eventually I managed to reconstruct the short piece. Then tinkered with it, found its form.
And came up with this:

As I was passing evening’s gate
an old man fell, and his out-of-date
groceries and softening potatoes rolled
over the busy pavement.

And as I stooped to lift, an awning 
in the creaking wind was warning:

   Leave him be, Christian man;
   your belief’s too weak to raise him.
   Help will come. 

                                But, when will,
I replied irritably, that be? 
The day’s getting on, 
and keeping time never was 
your best invention.

   If he is to die there, then he will.

I reached down, he reached up – 
already some goods had gone.
What is your name? he asked.

I answered only this,
                                      If, I said. 

Did I do it? Three layers?
The main question, though, is: is it presentable? Or have I once again shown myself up in public?
Well, why not.

Some time ago I was playing around with classical forms, I thought I’d try my hand at Hendecasyllables.
They are classical measures, and not really suitable for stress-based language forms, like English. Quite a bit of licence has to go into transposing.
You are apt to think, with license, ‘why not go for more’, but no, licence has to be used sparingly.

The form used was: u|/u|/uuu/u|/u|, or trochee/trochee/dactyl/trochee/trochee – some forms have a choriamb: u||u for the dactyl

To be fretting unendingly over this thing.
Does it make any difference? Change this, that thing?
Nothing can, there‘s just too much in there that’s tangled,
pulling backward; the built-in and weighted, turgid.
Much too much for just me to accomplish any
changes. What, then? And there it is again: fretting.

Subject open, there’s always some hash tasking
somewhere. Even when none of my business.
Always this, then? A temperamental set-up?
Same old vectors that ply their same trade, scam, of
expectations, promissary payments?

Now, with this piece I want you to think/feel ‘I could do better than that.’ and then have a go. Try it.
Then post it up, and let us know so we can read it and maybe all get a bit better at it.

How to make an assessment of the writings/works of Friederike Mayröcker?
Maybe by not doing so.


For a long time it was Friederike-Mayröcker-and-Ernst-Jandl. 
They were inseparable in many way, the ways that really mattered. 
They collaborated on performance and radio pieces – their work was more sound art, vocal layering, than what we think of as a ‘play’, ‘drama’.
And between them they won innumerable prizes. Among them the top, Georg Büchner Prize, for Friederike Mayröcker.
Friederike Mayröcker’s work has always been distinctive. 
The Poetry Foundation site tells us, She is associated with the experimental German writers and artists of the Wiener Gruppe (

Widely and deeply read, the work she has produced is deeply referenced – whether to Robert and Clara Schumann’s Marriage Diaries, Samuel Beckett, Jacques Derrida, Friedrich Hölderlin, and probably a huge number that I do not recognise.
And not only European writers: she references Frank O’Hara, Jorie Graham, James Joyce, in Scardanelli alone. Elsewhere she gives John Dowland, Gertrude Stein, Glen Gould, even Blixa Bargeld of Einsturzende Neubauten – in other words, very eclectic.

Friederike-Mayröcker-and-Ernst-Jandl are/were both Austrian writers, born within a few years of each other in 1020s Vienna.
This places them in the same environment and time as Ingeborg Bachmann (born Klagenfurt, Carinthia, but Vienna-based). Her novel, Malina, is based in Vienna’s district 6, whilst Friederike Mayröcker has lived a few minutes tram journey away, in district 5, for fifty years or more.

Ernst Jandl.
He wrote he started off as a conventional enough poet, but then he went to a meeting of concrete poets/Dadaists… and the fun they were having, the enjoyment…. Joie de vivre was very much his.


But then he went and died in 2000. After fifty years together.


Her subsequent publications include:
Requiem for Ernst Jandl (2001. Published Seagull Books, 2018),
Embracing the Sparrow Wall Or 1-Schumann-Madness (2011; Oomph Books, 2019),
Scardanelli (2018; The Song Cave, 2018),

chart the loss, and also continuance:

When your soul is bleeding, says Elke Erb, how can you not find words, says Elke Erb, among Mongolia melancholy monochrome and green passers-by, is he not sending you a profusion of loving-souls, and you in their midst…(translation Roslyn Theobald, Requiem for Ernst Jandl)

And you can read here the shifts of register, tone. The repetition is like a reminding, a keeping-concentration, and so not flowing away with distress – there is that, it is part of grieving, has to be allowed/admitted/lived-with.
The text is not public display, nor wholly self-referential, but walks a path where the borders blend. Do not think of strict demarcations between states, intents, because there are none.

And yet the text is here presented for publication. There have been public readings.
This is the personal made the default; the public persona has been ousted. There have been more than enough of those, thank you.

To read/listen, is to navigate the seas, the jungles and seas, of living responsiveness to the self’s and the world’s demands.

Book blurb gives us:

Tumult, ferocity, flow, immersion… reinterprets literary vocation as total theatre (Wayne Koestenbaum, Scardanelli)
( – Scardanelli is one way Friederich Hölderlin addressed himself in his ‘madness’.)

The title of her earlier, 1990s and long out of print selection in translation on Caracanet, is Raving Language

…this quiet but passionate lament grows into a song of enthralling intensity.(Roslyn Theobald, Requiem for Ernst Jandl)

There is also ‘quiet… intensity’ in Embracing the Sparrow-Wall Amid The Ivy:

whether the wet laundry in my chamber and thinking of Silvie what all she requited to me on that day when HE was buried she slept beside that night because I was afraid to remain alone and the composition >>To Silvia<< by Franz Schubert which haunted me because I had cried a lot and the winter tapped against the glass…

This is not rambling, but following a trail.
Jonathon Larson, translator of, and in his Introduction to, Embracing the Sparrow Wall, writes of her constructions as a ‘cloud of sound‘, and of her ‘density and grain of phrasing’.

Her writing purposely eschews construction issues, rules and habits of argument, discussion, the public voice, the ‘poetic’, for flow that eddies, discovers itself, discovers others.
Musicians are referenced often, and ‘orchestration’ is one way of describing her writing. And yet musical orchestration is a very regulated transposition of forms.

Her placing of words, phrasings, is with pin-point accuracy of skill. Perhaps this is a kind if transposing.
Of course, this taxes the translator’s skills hugely. She has been very fortunate in the ones listed here; they have done the work great service in making it available and also accessible to us.

All this points out the uniqueness of her writing, her forms, purposes.


The Elke Erb quote, above, is interesting.
Elke Erb has lived throug the East German regime, from almost its beginning to its end. With the GDR’s iron emphasis on socialist realism and materialism, the survival of the term/concept ‘soul’ is all the more striking. Is this persistence, or resistance?

Wiki tells us:
 In his years of madness, Hölderlin would occasionally pencil ingenuous rhymed quatrains, sometimes of a childlike beauty, which he would sign with fantastic names (most often “Scardanelli”) and give fictitious dates from previous or future centuries.ölderlin

Why do I mention this?
The Poetry Foundation tells us She has also cited Friedrich Hölderlin as an important influence, describing his poetry as a type of drug she takes before writing.(

The disjunction between the tuning-into what Wiki termed the ‘childlike beauty’, and Poetry Foundation’s description of her creation from that: ‘the apparently random: the habitual use of collage techniques which layer seemingly disparate levels of experience‘ is very revealing.

The Institute of Modern Languages site, tells us of : the tension between a playful and freely associative poetics on the one hand, and concentrated discipline on the other.
Her earlier work has used the formal format of much experimental work, from the Oulipo writers onwards. We see this in:

Will Wither Like Grass. My Hand too and Pupil

will wither like grass . my foot and my hair and my silentest word

will wither like grass . your mouth your mouth

will wither like grass . how you gaze into me

will wither like grass . my cheek my cheek and the little flower

which you know is there will wither like grass 

will wither like grass . your mouth your purple-coloured mouth

will wither like grass . but the night but the mist but the plenitude

will wither like grass will wither like grass

                 Translated from the German by Richard Doveöcker.htm

David Constatine, in his translations of Frederich Hölderlin writes, ‘Hölderlin is a poet we can read with our own atrocious times in mind. He is a deeply religious poet whose fundamental tenet is absence and the threat of meaninglessness. He confronted hopelessness as few writers have, he was what Rilke called “exposed”; but there is no poetry like his for the constant engendering of hope, for the expression, in the body and breath of poems, of the best and most passionate aspirations’ 

Hope, then, and the ‘best and most passionate aspirations‘ – there I think, we have it.

There is in her writing what she terms, ‘tender prose’.
She is very specific and determined about this description. See the interview for Green Integer Review:öcker.htm
And so:


The title of her latest book Scardanelli, as we seen, is one name chosen by Frederich Hölderlin in his ‘madness’ phase.
And if we read the writings of each we see many similarities in style.
She had been working on and towards a language of expression for her grief, and ‘Raving Language’ was one description.

In contrast, her book, Scardanelli, consists of short – little more than a page at most, often much less -pieces. Lyrical remembrances of walks with Ernst Jandl, friends afterwards, walks in the mountains, Venice.
I say lyrical, because they are marked by emotive recapturing of moments of happiness, stillness.
If we read Frederich Hölderlin’s later poems – see James Mitchell’s: – we see similar short works, that capture similar moments of lyrical recapture.

Each book is different, in style, approach, and this really attracts me.
Rather than holding the same achieved poise in address, she experiments, goes where the need takes. For each book is an event, comes from a need rather than an flow of text, play of language, keeping oneself in the market.

Let me once again refer you to The Low Countries online site:

The site hosts pages on Arts, History, Language, Literature, Society, as well as podcasts.

All these are in English.

They regularly check with readers on how best to improve the site. And so, acknowledge that many have difficulty reading tracts, extended essays etc online. They time-note each piece they publish.
This reading online issue, along with energy use, I am also very aware of, and so am very grateful for this move.

For instance, under the Arts section there is currently The Impact of COVID-19 on Dutch Artists Worldwide. This is noted as a 5 minute reading time piece.

The visuals are all very high quality, articles, reviews, news all up-to-date, high quality, and very pertinent to all readers.
There is material here in translation that is not available elsewhere.

One of the Series articles the site runs is Young Voices On Slavery, which I heartily recommend:

If you read no other on this site, you must read this one.

Here, we read,  Eighteen young Flemish and Dutch authors from deBuren’s Paris writing residency give a voice to an artefact from the Slavery exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Because this is a joint online enterprise with The Low Countries, the works are copyrighted, and cannot be published elsewhere.

This is an excellent enterprise, and not one I have come across elsewhere.
The exhibition opens plantation cash books, contracts of slavers and other artefacts, for young writers’ responses.
There is really good work here.
As well as bringing the reality of the practices into contemporary concerns, linking the Black Lives Matter campaign, and recognising all nations contributions to the promotion and development of slavery.
The residency maintains the relevance of history into present day awareness.

Of the many works here, one that particularly appealed to myself, was the work by Elsbet De Pauw: a line, a house, a skin.
I had originally intended to reproduce this work, along with links, but copyright issues prevented it.

It is the intelligence of this response that struck something in me.
And this is the only work by this writer available in English translation.

I do really hope to read more of this writer. She has nothing, as yet, available on the Poetry International site, either.

Other Series pages are : On the Shoulders of Old Masters; Old Works Young Writers; Our Colonial Legacy; Migration, the Other way Round

This site is full of glorious wonders. I urge you to explore.

There is a 13th century German poem, Der Rosendorn, that tells of an overheard dialogue between a young woman and her vagina.
But then an excerpt of this poem was found used as the binding of another book. Only this binding excerpt dated at two hundred years’ previous to the complete copy.

The woman and her vagina part company, and each goes off to prove which of them men do really want/love/value.
But we know it will not end well.
Neither comes back with a good tale to tell.
And to to get the two back together again?
With the aid of … some kind of… nail….

This is not about personal emotion or response, but public art/poetry.
It is about bragging, posturing, attitude.
It is essential we do not confuse the two.

The relationship between them, though, is very complexly reciprocal, and constantly shifting, one copying the other which then copies the copy etc.

Wiki tells us:
Poems of this vintage were not uncommon in medieval literature, with other examples known from France, and in England, sexual vulgarity was a frequent theme of Geoffrey Chaucer’s poetry.

We see examples in Rufinus from the Greek Anthology parodying the Three Graces. I only have to mention Catullus and Lesbia, and in Medieval Latin: The Virgin and the Nightingale: 1983: Fleur Adcock, Translator, The Virgin and the Nightingale: Medieval Latin poems, Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books,[9] ISBN 978-0-906427-55-2

The poem is a piece of purposeful ribaldry.
Take, for instance, the first encounter – that of an enclosed garden.
This is a deliberate parody on the symbolic virginity of maidenhood, through the imagery of the Virgin Mary.

The woman is the inverse of the courtly tradition’s paragon of the female, just as the whole purpose of the piece is that of light/ribald entertainment, and using tradition forms, not heroic stanzas in parody.
Amour courtois comes in for a drubbing.

So, what was the purpose of poems like these? Their use of plain language for body parts adds a frisson – Wiki tells us:
The Germanist Coxon suggests that their closest relative in ribaldry would have been the Fastnachtsspiele of carnival and shrovetide.[8]
There were times, then, like the time of the ‘lord of misrule’ over the Christmas period, like May morning, when laws were relaxed, and revelery allowed.

If you do visit the Wiki page, above, you will see a 14th century metal brooch from Bruges, of a vagina being paraded by three penises.
Apparently metal brooches like this were popular.

The monumental architectural installation ‘The Passenger’ in Mons was brought down today, ending a five-and-a-half-year run arching over the narrow Rue Nimy. The work was created by Belgian artist Arne Quinze and erected in 2015 during the European Capital of Culture celebrations.

For more on Arne Quinze, see:

And, the end of The Passenger:

I love this work.

Also, from Belgium

When you thought the Care Home/Nursing Home catastrophe was so terrible, a ray of fun/sun:

As for Thérésa, she told RTL that it took quite a lot of prodding from Youssef to get her to agree to be the star of the show. “You might not believe it, but I’m extremely shy,” she said. “But I wasn’t myself anymore; I had become the Snow Queen.”

Glorious! Wonderful people.