Saturday, September 15, 2012

sprachlos thoughts

Two translations of Erich Fried's "Sprachlos":


Why do you
still write
although you
reach only
a few people
by this method

friends ask me
impatient because
they reach only
a few people
by their methods

and I don't
have an answer
for them



do you still
write poems
although you know
that you can only
reach a minority
with this method

my friends ask me
impatient that
they can only
reach a minority
with their methods

and I can't
give them
an answer


(The first translation is by Beth Bjorklund, from her anthology "Contemporary Austrian Poetry," published in 1986; the second is by Milne Holton and Herbert Kuhner, from their anthology "Austrian Poetry Today," published in 1985. Both these books are available via Amazon or Abebooks for a reasonable price, and I recommend them highly. There are wonderful poems in each.)

. . . The question Fried raises is particularly troublesome for poets of any time who, like him, want to "reach" an audience with an urgent political message or idea.—

Especially when there are always those "friends" who hector:

"Why write such poems when you know that poetry has only a small audience at best,

and of that minority there is even a smaller group who are willing to read verse whose intent is political, whose aim to is provoke and disturb.

Most readers go to poetry for various succinct expressions of delusionary consolation and psychological gratification,

not to be confronted with social dilemmas which can't be resolved

or momentarily dissolved by a sigh or a sob or a settling softly of the book on one's knee.

Knowing how limited its 'reach' is, why would a committed Socialist artist ever use poetry as the 'method' to further the cause?

If you really, realistically wanted to win and influence the largest audience possible, you would become a writer of popsongs or screenplays.

One leftist accomplisher like that is worth a thousand poets of the persuasion."

Whether those accusatory friends are correct is the question—

I certainly don't have the answer!



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