WHAT ANNOYS – DELIGHTS – AND IS OFTEN UNEXPLAINED.
What is ANNOYING me this week?
The price of spectacles.
What is DELIGHTING me this week?
A set of shelves.
Robert Johnson on YOUTUBE.
SOME OF MY DOINGS:
Last weekend saw me doing a spot of DIY, a 7 mile walk, heading to a certain Swedish Furniture store and watching Tamworth FC throw away a two goal lead to draw 2-2 with AFC Telford.
So no writing got done, but it was good to catch up on a few jobs, get some exercise and support my local football team without worrying about not producing anything literary.
I will have to start thinking about where next with my work; my personal work tends to drift when I have so many projects on the go. Another two are in the offing – one for the end of September and another for November so in between times I need to focus on crafting my poems for submissions to magazines something I know I should do but never seem to find the time.
I have a couple of readings coming up in September, where I would like to read some new poems on my experience in Cork, so I plan to work on them this week during my writing time. I have an idea of what I want to do, but have not got it clear in my head how I want to say it in a poem. So I need to walk with the ideas for a little longer.
I don’t believe in writers block as if something is not coming to the fore when I write then I believe that I have not thought it through enough. Thinking for me is not a forced process, I cant just brainstorm and idea from my conscious, I need the thoughts from the un-conscious to tease themselves out into consciousness so that I can use them. This takes time and I tend to walk with the ideas pulling them together until I have that flash, the light bulb moment and it all comes together.
I find doing jobs such as the odd bit of DIY or walking are very therapeutic to my writing mind as I am focussed on more physical activities that make me think of other things; measurements, cutting angles, distances, fresh air, avoiding puddles, giving me that sideways glance at what I want to write, only then seeing the angle that will create the structure that I want to write about.
I received an email from a fellow writer and good friend of mine, who is a Brit based in Prague. Paul put off going to spend two years in the Czech Republic, despite the encouragement from his fiancé but is the first to admit he should have done it a long time ago. He has not only finished his first novel in the short time he has been there, something he has been working on for the last 3 years, he has found gainful employment teaching English and is also writing a blog on the more unusual, lesser known aspects of being a ex-pat in Prague.
His blog documents his interests and tries to counteract the impressions of Brits as being drunken stag parties that Prague has over recent years become all to familiar with. The blog at www.guiriguidetoprague.com so far covers his settling into his new life and the search for a typewriter, which doesn’t surprise me as I always see Paul as a writer in the mould of Hemmingway and Kerouac, typing away at his work on an old Imperial typewriter. I somehow can’t see Hemmingway or Kerouac with a laptop and word-processor, which is funny really because I can hear J.S.Bach with a synthesiser.
Do take a regular look at Paul’s blog and expect the unexpected.
Having said above that I have not written anything, that is not entirely true. It is another good friend and fellow poet, Gary Carr’s 50th Birthday this week and I can’t let it pass without returning the favour he did me on my 50th, that is to write a poem in celebration. I will send it to him on the day and may well read it at Spoken Worlds. His poem for my Birthday was absolutely wonderful and I only hope mine in return lives up to the mark.
My Lost Poet, this week is AUGUST STRAMM (1874-1915)
Most pupils of my generation studied First World War poets as part of their O’levels, the poets were British: Brooke, Sassoon, Owen et al. We were never encouraged to consider that Germans had their own poets.
The reason for this could be the lack of translations from German to English; we studied French and not German. There could also be the sensitivity that World War II had only ended 30 years previously and that the educationalists decided to avoid German war poetry. Having said this we did study both Wars including a German perspective in History.
As we head towards it being 100 years since the outbreak of the Great War, I think that we should consider the poems of Stramm, whose style and voice was distinctly different to his British counterparts.
Stramm is considered to be one of the early Expressionist poets, whose style sought to express meaning and emotion rather than reality. Stramm is very much a modernist voice, with stripped back, terse, stark poems where every word conveys a bleak terror or haunted feeling.
Stramm was born in Münster (Westfalen) in 1874; the son of a civil servant. His early career saw him working for the German Ministry for the Post Office. He completed his mandatory military service in 1896/97 and is known to have made several trips to the USA between his military service and 1900.
He married in 1902 and by 1905 he had settled in Berlin.
In 1912 / 13 he wrote two plays Sancta Susanna and Die Haidebraut both of which were performed before the outbreak of war.
His poetry flourished due to his acquaintance with the Berlin publisher Herwath Walden who had established the Expressionist journal, Der Sturm.
With the outbreak of War, Stramm as a reservist was called up and reached the highest rank for a civilian that of Captain. He saw action on the Somme and Alsace for which he received the Iron Cross (2nd Class). He was stationed on the Eastern Front when he was killed in action at Horodec in September 1915.
Stramm’s poetry does not rely on the reader making historic associations or use of Latin that his British counterparts did. His short poems fire bullets of expression into the silence and let them echo in your thoughts. Normally starting with a long line they pair down into single words as they progress, as if he is trying to squeeze the last breath out of every poem. These poems do not retreat or provide answers, they do not moralise on the situation. They just describe it as it is: blood, killing, murder.
There are links below to some of his other poems in translation or versions. But my little knowledge of German has left me dissatisfied with some of the translations and interpretations. These are really powerful voices – voices that still resonate in contemporary poetic parlance. I felt I needed to go back to the original German and to work on my own interpretation, which I have done below with his poem Wunde (Wound).
Wunde – Original German by August Stramm
Die Erde blutet unterm Helmkopf
Der Weltraum tastet
Wound – English Translation/version by Mal Dewhirst.
The Earth bleeds under his helmet
The space pushes
A shudder shower
In the distance
Of your gaze.
This translation or response differs from other translations, some literal others poetic, seeking to get into the expressionist mind. My translation, whilst trying to hold on to the meaning and feel, uses my current preference to an alliterative style.
I have also taken the view point that it is a poem of the Earth, the viewer describing the Earth as personified participant in the battle. This again is a preference of mine in my own poetry, but in this case I think is also Stramm’s intention, he personifies frequently in his poetry, describing iron as sleeping. I see this as the wounded Earth, his solitude and distant gaze. The Earth is male, which is at variance with the normal thinking i.e. Mother Earth, also the Germanic Fatherland, which is little used these days because of its connections with the Nazi’s. Fatherland or Vaterland in German is an expression that was in frequent usage far before the rise of the Third Reich.
August Stramm at Poem Hunter
Versions of August Stramm by Alistair Noon.
First World War site for Poetry and Prose.
The latest War Poet
– Antony Owen will be reading from his collection the Dreaded Boy at the FIZZ in Polesworth on 20th September.
SOME OF MY COMING SOON DOINGS
6th Sept – Night Blue Fruit – Taylor John’s in Coventry.
16th Sept – SPOKEN WORLDS – Burton on Trent.
20th Sept – THE FIZZ at Polesworth
24th Sept – 100000 Poets for Change – venue TBA