05 September 2013

Poetry research in edited books

A Poetics of Presence: Travel Cycles in Aroma and Lob des Taifuns
in Durs Grünbein: A Companion, ed. Michael Eskin, Karen Leeder & Christopher Young (De Gruyter, 2013), pp.181-203
Commissioned for the first English-language book all about Grünbein, this essay makes case for regarding the poet as a travel writer. By exposing three key manifestations of Grünbein's poetics of presence - the here-and-now, bodily presence, and the presence of the poem - it theorizes aspects of poetry and travel that distinguish the Rome poems and Japan poems within Grünbein's oeuvre and within contemporary poetry more widely. It argues that, as the focus of a poetics, presence works counter to post-unification German writing obsessed with absence. It discovers the impact of foreign places on body, voice and lyric possibilities.
Link to the book

Death by Cultural Mobility: Ophelia in German
in The Hamlet Zone: Reworking Hamlet for European Cultures, ed. Ruth J. Owen (Cambridge Scholars, 2012), pp.163-175
This essay focuses on Ophelia as a culturally mobile figure recurring in German-language poetry. It construes the death of Ophelia as a crucial gap that allows her to come loose from Hamlet and be incorporated into, for example, German crime narratives. It highlights the interactions between literary and visual culture, in the creating of networks of image patterns, and argues that to open the channels between and through cultures requires, in this instance, female death and a body in the water.
Link to the book

wenn ein staat ins gras beißt, singen die dichter: The Wende in Poetry
in Memory Traces: 1989 and the Question of German Cultural Identity, ed. Silke Arnold-de Simine (2005), pp.151-180
Commissioned for a book on memory organisation in the post-unification period, this essay demonstrates how poetry memorializes the German Wende as a death. It particularly analyses poets’ bold use of biblical and Classical mythologies to counter a sense of defeat, as well as their compelling employment of poetic technique to expose tired binary thinking on German unity. The depiction of memories in poetry draws links to film and to the museum, as rival models for the preservation of the past.
Link to the book

Germania im Bunker: German Urban Landscapes in Contemporary Poetry
in Cityscapes and Countryside in Contemporary German Literature, ed. Julian Preece & Osman Durrani (2004), pp.29-44
Originally my first conference paper, this essay argues that contemporary portrayals of urban landscapes share a complex of associations and motifs that centre around mortality. Identifying the predominance of violence and war in these representations of environments, it examines various versions of the subterranean or submarine anti-Heimat, and suggests that the cityscape beneath the surface is a repressed national past. The urban landscape is interpreted in terms of a Classical Hades and a Freudian consciousness, with references to models of the city in German literature of the 1920s and the 1950s.
Link to the book

The Colonizing West: Poetry by Heiner Müller, Steffen Mensching and Bert Papenfuß in the 1990s 
in Legacies and Identity: East and West German Literary Responses to Unification, ed. Martin Kane (2002), pp.113-126
For writers who had remained in the GDR, German unification in 1990 brought a sudden confrontation with a commercial, media-rich society. In Die deutsche Einheit und die Schriftsteller, Volker Wehdeking asserted that amongst writers from East and West there was broad acceptance of unification as a favourable development. This article (commissioned by the external examiner of my doctoral thesis) demonstrates that poetry by three important ex-GDR writers gives a contrary impression: Heiner Müller’s posthumously published poetry, the Berliner Elegien of Steffen Mensching, and Bert Papenfuß’s epic mors ex nihilo each make a striking rejection of capitalism. These poets have written unification in terms of conquest by the West. Their poetry presents itself as a last platform on which to argue that the world could be different. Even as it makes its gestures against western neo-colonialism, however, the poems themselves seem to become overrun and occupied by the language of western commerce.