A journey through German poetry's Journal
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in A journey through German poetry's InsaneJournal:

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    Thursday, May 1st, 2008
    12:54 am
    The end
    I'm stopping here but if you want to go on the comm's now open! I'd love to read along.

    If you post you might want to add the last name of whomever you're talking about to the tags, just to keep things searchable (last name as in, name they're known as, like Kirsch for Sarah Kirsch, not necessarily their real name). Otherwise I don't think we need rules. English sounds like the lingua franca but if you feel better posting in German or even French no one will stop you, ganz im Gegenteil :D

    Also, when hunting around for the texts I wanted I stumbled on this page and I thought I'd share. It features lots of fairly recent poems, there's some variety and it's google-reader compatible.

    And... I believe that's all.
    Wednesday, April 30th, 2008
    11:14 pm
    Ingrid Hella Irmelinde Bernstein
    Read more )

    So, that's all folks. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
    Tuesday, April 29th, 2008
    11:50 pm
    Ingeborg Bachmann
    (1926-1973) Read more )

    We're running out of time. Tomorrow I was thinking of either Du wirst reich sein / Markenstecher Uhrenkleber (Enzensberger) or Dom Juan kommt am Nachmittag (Kirsch). Or something else, why not. What do you think?
    Monday, April 28th, 2008
    10:49 pm
    Eugen Berthold Friedrich aka "Bertholt" Brecht
    (1898-1956) Read more )

    Tomorrow, something nicer (I'm aware that's anything but specific).
    Sunday, April 27th, 2008
    9:55 pm
    Paul Celan

    Read more )

    Tomorrow, what happened after the war.
    Saturday, April 26th, 2008
    9:44 pm
    Erich Kästner

    Read more )

    Tomorrow, WW2.
    Friday, April 25th, 2008
    11:32 pm
    Gottfried Benn

    Read more )

    Tomorrow, someone with a sense of humour.
    Thursday, April 24th, 2008
    11:56 pm
    Else Lasker-Schüler

    Read more )

    Tomorrow, Benn.
    Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008
    2:51 am
    Georg Trakl

    was born in Salzburg in a rather wealthy family. His father was Protestant and his mother Catholic; he saw little of either of them as a child and seems to have transferred his affections to his older sister Margarete. There is no doubt that he was in love with her in a romantic and not at all platonic sense. He started writing very young, both poetry and theatre plays, and he discovered drugs soon after that. He dropped out of high school to enter a pharmacy apprenticeship instead, probably in order to gain free access to cocaine.

    He was conscripted in 1914 as a "sanitary assistant", and as such witnessed the battle of Grodek before having to attend to a hundred severely wounded participants, several of whom killed themselves while under his watch. That triggered a burst of dementia in him, so he was promptly interned in a lunatic asylum in Cracow where he died of an overdose of cocaine. Given his profession and his experience with this substance, it probably wasn't an accident.

    His most famous poem is probably Im Herbst, but I like Grodek better. Here is the original, and here is a translation.

    I don't have much in way of commentary - the good thing with expressionism is that it expresses itself very well on its own. I do believe this poem captures the unique mix of violence, guilt, and surreal drug-induced visions of the apocalypse that has flourished throughout the 20th century.

    And tomorrow, a female!

    (You will have noticed that we've departed from a strict chronological order these last few entries; it'll go on being a bit jumbled til the end I'm afraid. It seems to make more sense this way, somehow)
    Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008
    10:09 pm
    Rainer Maria Rilke

    was born in Prague. His father was an ex-soldier turned railroad worker and he sent him to military school at the earlier possible opportunity. Rilke hated it, fell ill, and finished his secondary schooling at home before going on to study literature and philosophie first in Prag, then in Munich, where he met Lou-Andreas Salomé, who was to have a huge influence in his life, first as his mistress and then just as a friend. He followed her to Berlin, she ended their romantic relationship, he fled to Bremen, where he met Clara Westhoff, a sculptor he married soon afterwards and left not long after that to go to Paris. He was on a short trip to Munich in 1914 - bad luck for him, as returning to Paris was then impossible due to the war. He was conscripted, but used his relations to avoid going anywhere near the front lines. His health deteriorated after the end of the war and he was diagnosed with leukemia shortly before his death.

    He best-known works are probably the Duineser Elegien, but people usually read only his Letters to a young poet.

    Today's poem, Der Panther, is probably among his most famous pieces. Here are several translations into English, and here is one into French with a lengthy commentary.

    For the non-Germans, a panther is masculine. For a kinky (if slightly AU) reading one might want to liken it to a phallic symbol.

    Tomorrow, WW1.
    Sunday, April 20th, 2008
    11:18 pm
    Heinrich Heine
    (1797-1856) Read More )

    Am still unsure about whom it'll be tomorrow. There's Holz (whom I don't know all that well), George (whom I don't like all that much), Hofmannstahl (whom I've never understood) or Rilke, for whom I have an irrational but no less virulent hatred, but who's nonetheless One Of These People you can't just skip. Choices, choices. Any preferences on your side?
    Saturday, April 19th, 2008
    11:54 pm
    Eduard Friedrich Mörike
    (1804-1874) was of twelve children by a doctor and a pastor's daughter. His father died when he was young and his uncle paid for his studies until he was admitted to seminary. He was not stupid, but not very bright either - he failed the Landexamen and his end of seminary assessment was all but enthusiastic. That period of his life was marked by lots of reading in Greek and Latin, and by falling in love with a beautiful and Very Unsuitable girl, from which his family and especially his older sisters separated him. He nevertheless, and in spite of his objections to mainstream theology, became a pastor, a profession he assumed until he was 39, at which point he retired, married a younger, very unsuitable Catholic girl and started teaching at the university of Tübingen. The marriage lasted while their two daughters grew up and then came to a divorce. He died soon after that.

    Today's poem comes with a handy translation, and even notes! I probably should have googled more for English translations at the beginning of the month.

    And after this long winter of German Romanticism, tomorrow we'll be moving to fresh new grounds with what the French think is the second most famous German poem (after Goethe's Erlkönig). Can you guess what it is?
    Friday, April 18th, 2008
    11:16 pm
    August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben

    was born in Fallersleben (his actual surname is Hoffmann) to the town's mayor. He studied in Bonn, became a librarian and wrote poetry, but his obsession with politically uncorrect notions like human rights, freedom or German unity got him in all sorts of trouble. He had to flee several times, and it was in exile that he wrote this poem (scroll down for the translation).

    It became the German anthem during the Weimar republic; the first strophe (along with the Horst-Wessel Lied aka the SS song) was the national anthem during the third Reich. Nowadays the anthem is the third strophe only.

    Now the general interpretation is that the first strophe doesn't mean that he thought the actual borders of Germany should stretch that far, that he is speaking in metaphorical terms, etc. I beg to disagree. Those were, at the time, the borders of the German-speaking world (if you count German dialects as German), and his counting it that way echoes the German notion of citizenship as something that is not chosen but an inevitable consequence of where you belong to (as opposed to, say, the French definition of citizenship which, until recently, was an individual choice, the much reputed plébiscite de tous les jours). It is this definition that made Bismarck annex the then French regions of Alsace and Lorraine in 1870, to the consequences that we know. Now this is deeply offensive to many of us, but it really should be replaced in the context in which it was written. This isn't about proud and offensive nationalism, it's about the first staggering realisation that people from different states might have something in common after all - a shared heritage, wine and songs,...

    The second strophe is just funny, and the third, I think you'll agree, is perfect for a national anthem.

    I still haven't decided what will be on the menu tomorrow.
    Thursday, April 17th, 2008
    9:18 pm
    Anna Elisabeth Franzisca Adolphina Wilhelmina Ludovica Freiin von Droste zu Hülshoff

    Read more )

    Tomorrow, a bit of nationalism, mixed with wine, songs, unity, law and freedom.
    Monday, April 14th, 2008
    8:19 pm
    Joseph Karl Benedikt Freiherr von Eichendorff

    is a perfect representative of the generation that was born to late to really live through the collective excitement that bubbled through Europe with the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars, but that was still close enough to it all to feel that they, too, should do something deep and meaningful with their lives - and the inability to do so caused some great pieces of frustrated poetry.

    Read more )

    And tomorrow, ladies and ladies, we'll have a female poet at last.
    Sunday, April 13th, 2008
    9:27 pm
    Clemens Wenzeslaus Brentano de La Roche

    Read more )

    And for tomorrow, we have an honest-to-God, wind-blown-hair-in-the-forsaken-moor romantic on the menu! I hope you’ll be hungry, ladies and ladies, because that will be one tasty morsel.
    Saturday, April 12th, 2008
    11:34 pm
    Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin

    Read more )
    Friday, April 11th, 2008
    3:57 pm
    Johann Christoph Friedrich Schiller
    (1759-1805) is associated to Goethe in popular culture, and suffers from the association, as if Goethe’s shadow kept him in a relative darkness. The truth is that Schiller’s life was a lot shorter than Goethe’s (1749-1832) and that he thus did not have the time to write as much as Goethe did in his more mature years. Their “friendship” (they exchanged more than a thousand letters) also masks the fact that they interacted with each other more on the basis of mutual respect for each other’s intellectual calibre than out of any similarity of views or opinions. And where reading Goethe is a discreet intellectual pleasure, comparable to leaning back on a comfortable armchair to savour little sips of ambrosia, contact with Schiller’s works is more like diving head first into the intensity of undiluted passion without knowing when or if one will be able to catch one’s breath. This often leads readers to admire Goethe’s measure and sense of balance and sneer at Schiller’s perceived hybris. I shall leave you judge of that…

    Read more )
    Thursday, April 10th, 2008
    11:10 pm
    No one new today
    Due to a bad case of not being in the mood (sorry).

    Instead I give you more Goethe: Der Zauberlehrling
    Translation by Edwin Zeydel: The Sorcerer's Apprentice.
    Wednesday, April 9th, 2008
    9:47 pm
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
    (1749-1832) is something of a giant in German literature. The foreign establishments meant to spread German culture abroad (equivalents of the British council or Alliance Française institutions) are named after him. Mehr Licht! )

    Ten points if you guess what poem there will be on the menu tomorrow...
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