Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Brief Comment on Some German Poems

I, Alex, have tried multiple times now to post this in the comments section under Germany. I have failed. Thus you'll get my comment on the blog itself. Maybe that will encourage more responses to my questions and curiosities?

Three of the poems in the German section (those by Hahn ("Respectable Sonnet"), Falkner ("You sleep"), and Kolbe ("Never now anywhere")) rhyme, though the latter two somewhat loosely. I'm curious about the tradition in German poetry: has formal verse remained current longer than in English? I'm reminded of a Robert Hass essay where he discusses the challenges of translating contemporary poetry into English from a language where rhyming still sounds serious and fresh, something that's harder to achieve, I think we can all agree, in English today, though not by any means inconceivable (cf. Karen Volkman, for example). How do you translate the poem into a contemporary English that maintains both the rhymes and the serious (or whatever) tone of the original? Or is it even possible? Do you have to choose either the music or the meaning? Maybe so. But the three poems here are skillfully translated. The rhymes are subtle (in the latter two) but all three still sound interesting, not flat or sing-songy.

I agree with Daniela about the lack of translation static in the German section. I too wonder why.

Why don't more people write aphorisms? I have nothing German/European/cultural to say about those. Just that it looks like a cool project (see Tobias Gruterich, p. 282, a young poet who also came in second in the 2008 German Aphorism Contest from the World Aphorism Organization). I also liked the previous poem, by Daniel Falb, with his "tender adoration for juliette binoche the seasons pass by unnoticed / which is really terrible". Thanks, Germany!

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