global airspace of poetry

Today I believe that with these eight indigent lines I had gained access to a hoary secret society. Without seeking official permission and empty-handed, I had entered an invisible institution, the global airspace of poetry—it was that simple. Besides, who could those permission-granting officials possibly have been? There was no more Parnassus, nor, far and wide, a brotherhood or bohème. I heard of a poetry scene for the first time when I enrolled at Humboldt University in Berlin. That Prenzlauer Berg with its run-down buildings would later become my very own Montparnasse, my drab Salon des Indépendants, populated by similarly idealistic stragglers as I, was unplanned. The muses, I soon realized, while taking course at the local adult education center, were nothing but a worn-out Greek allegory. The line had long been disconnected; you might as well try reading your poems to the ladies at the municipal registry, or the tellers at the post office. No, no, there was no formal accreditation process. You had to begin from scratch, cut off from both the classical and the modern traditions, in the vacuum of a society that tolerated literature only as mouthpiece for ideology. Even if you couldn’t see yourself that way: You were the young barbarian who undertook to carry the burden of a discarded culture on his frail shoulders in defiance of all evolutionary logic.

—Durs Grünbein, The Vocation of Poetry (Upper West Side Philosophers, Inc., 2010)

1 comment:

Andrew Shields said...

It's so cool that Durs's work is finally making it into English extensively! And that he's getting the attention he deserves.