06 September 2013

Poetry research in academic journals

Roses are Red: The Peculiar Remembrance of Rosa Luxemburg in Lyric Poetry
Seminar 48.2 (2012), 127-146

This essay, published in Canada, investigates how Rosa Luxemburg has been remembered in lyric poetry written in German. Not seeking to calibrate her legacy as such, it rather explores how poets have represented and imagined her: the moments they select to encapsulate her significance, the actions and locations with which they associate her, and their visions of her physical body. It traces patterns of remembrance in the poetry inspired by Rosa Luxemburg’s assassination, elucidating the contribution of lyric poetry as quite distinct from the various modes of commemorative prose writing or indeed the rituals and monuments marking her memory. It defines, for the first time, a corpus of Rosa poetry that was produced between 1919 and 1999, and extends from utterly forgotten texts to those in canonical oeuvres. This particular corpus, although continuing the long tradition of elegy and commemoration composed by German-language poets, also suggests a potential flaw in lyric remembrance.
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Freedoms of Expression: Poetry Translations in the East Berlin Poesiealbum
Translation Studies 4.2 (2011) special issue Poetry and Translation, ed. Lawrence Venuti, 133-148

This essay, my first in the field of translation studies, came about after Lawrence Venuti came to a huge literary translation conference in South Wales. Originally a paper, this essay explores the translations published in East Berlin between 1967 and 1990 in a magazine called the Poesiealbum. Instead of concerning itself with what was lost in translation, this exploration focuses on what was found in translation, namely freedoms of expression that were otherwise being censored out of existence. The features of the Poesiealbum as a magazine, and the possibilities for the poetry within it, lay with its conditions of production and reception in the GDR. A situation where expression was politically controlled serves to highlight how poetry translation can potentially exert a radical redress by recovering themes, forms and even discourses otherwise excluded.
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British Poets in the GDR Poesiealbum
Angermion: Jahrbuch für britisch-deutsche Kulturbeziehungen 1 (2008), 157-172

In 1974, selected translations of Dylan Thomas’s poems were published in the GDR, as the seventy-seventh issue of a poetry magazine called Poesiealbum. Issues of W. H. Auden’s, William Shakespeare’s and John Keats’s poetry followed from 1975 to 1986. This essay examines how the four collections reflect the reception of British poetry in the Germany behind the Iron Curtain. It asks what they indicate about editorial and translation practices operating under the socialist cultural policy of the GDR, and about West-East cultural transfer at the height of the Cold War. The four Poesiealbum issues discussed here present 135 poems from Britain, which had an existence in the GDR as poems re-written in German. They were part of a cultural transfer which resulted in an international literary presence behind the Iron Curtain that should not be underestimated. This essay is a first attempt to argue that, for twenty-three years, the Poesiealbum was at the heart of cultural transfer into the GDR and, of all the transfers across time and across national boundaries, Thomas, Auden, Shakespeare and Keats represented the under-estimated Anglo-German transfer.

Claiming the Body: The Ophelia Myth in the GDR
Germanic Review 82.3 (2007), 251-268
In the GDR, so this essay demonstrates, Ophelia is a found object, inherited from Shakespeare's Hamlet and from countless European poets and painters of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Originally, Ophelia was a young girl who lost her mind and drowned in an overhung brook. GDR writers turn her into a warning sign of unacknowledged catastrophe; she embodies female suffering caused not by love but by larger sociopolitical forces. The essay argues that in GDR poetry, Ophelia becomes part of a rhetoric of social death. Rather than the highly gendered contemplation of beauty and decay, postwar paradigms instate Ophelia's drowning as an outrage indicating the destructiveness of modern political organization.
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Bodies in Contemporary Poetry
German Monitor 69 (2007) special issue Schaltstelle: Contemporary German Poetry in Dialogue, ed. Karen Leeder, 269-291
This essay on contemporary poetry examines work by three poets who have articulated corporeal poetologies, Anne Duden, Durs Grünbein and Ulla Hahn, alongside body poems by Ulrike Draesner, Barbara Köhler, Brigitte Oleschinski and Albert Ostermaier. My investigation argues that contemporary images are defined by a shift from the external body to its hidden interior, by a shift from voicing spectatorship to voicing the body itself, and by the prevalence of volatility both in the form and the meaning of the body.
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Voicing the Drowned Girl: Poems by Hilde Domin, Ulla Hahn, Sarah Kirsch and Barbara Köhler in the German Tradition of Representing Ophelia
Modern Language Review 102.3 (2007), 781-792

Literary reception of Shakespeare’s Ophelia figure from Hamlet has a long history. In German, it is predominantly a twentieth-century phenomenon, which extends from the drowned girls of the Expressionist era into contemporary poetry. No matter the variety of suppositions on female loveliness, madness and morbidity, until the 1980s and 1990s the lyric voice always observes Ophelia as an object pallid and silent. Four women writers – Hilde Domin, Ulla Hahn, Sarah Kirsch and Barbara Köhler – have over-turned this, however, in poems which instead voice Ophelia, to feminist ends. This essay, my first in a series of publications on Ophelia poetry, examines how these female poets re-work the Ophelia myth.
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The Body as Art, in Early-Twentieth-Century German Poetry
Monatshefte 96 (2004), 503-520

This was my first article published in the USA. It examines how, in the first three decades of the twentieth century, clusters of German poems, by both major and minor poets, evoke bodies as art objects, such as statues, paintings, and floral ornaments. In part this originates in a desire to synthesize the ancient and the modern, or to posit a quasi-sexual model of art-reception and art-creation. This essay argues that the symbol-laden bodies constitute a play with aesthetic tradition: strict separation of the made image from the mortal, birthing body allows poets to explore how bodies are conceptualized. They set silent corporeal gesture against lyric language: whilst sonnet form counters the disintegration of broken art-bodies, the voiceless, non-intellectual model of communication also challenges the poem. In the shift from a visual to a linguistic medium, gaps open up, so that images are not just reproduced but critically interpreted in body poems; the critical gaps around bodies’ speechlessness show up the power of spectatorship and the satisfied gaze.
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Time in Volker Braun’s Poetry
German Monitor 58 (2004) special issue Volker Braun in Perspective, ed. Rolf Jucker, 197-208

In Volker Braun’s pre-unification collections, the present predominates grammatically and structurally and it is exalted metaphorically as a peak of restlessness, culinary adventure, or sublime revelation. Drawing together chronologically disparate poems to conceive of them as parts in a long-term Auseinandersetzung with the nature of time, this article examines how Braun variously inscribes the temporal moment. Readings of five poems spanning the period between 1964 and 1996 – ‘Könnt ich die Augenblicke leben’, ‘Die Austern’, ‘Der Mittag’, ‘Das Nachleben’ and ‘Der Reißwolf’ – reveal contrasting constructions of the bodily experience of time in terms of presence and absence. They also posit relationships between time and the work of art which indicate a radical poetological shift after Germany’s unification of 1990. (When this journal issue was sent to Volker Braun, he wrote to me about my essay and sent me his latest book!)
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Eine im Feuer versunkene Stadt: Dresden in Poetry
Gegenwartsliteratur 1 (2002), 87-106

Exploring a particular manifestation of the city-poem, this essay, published in the then brand new American journal, traces how Dresden became a topos in German poetry after 1945. Identifying a complex of associations and motifs reveals poets’ concern with commemorating the devastating wartime fire-bombing of the Saxon city. Taking its cue from essays by Wulf Kirsten and Gerrit-Jan Berendse on Dresden poetry of the 1960s and 1970s, this essay examines how the tradition established in those decades has been developed by a subsequent generation, writing in the 1980s and 1990s. The representation of Dresden in relation to various histories (national, personal, literary, art history) returns repeatedly to the tension between what passes away and what is preserved in perpetuity. Whereas earlier poems tend to read the city as history made concrete, later poems focus on abstract forces and the city’s supernatural power.
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Science in Contemporary Poetry: A Point of Comparison between Raoul Schrott and Durs Grünbein
German Life and Letters 54.1 (2001), 82-96

One of the most striking characteristics of Raoul Schrott’s and Durs Grünbein’s poetry is a thematization of natural science. Originally a graduate seminar paper, this essay brings together science poetry by these remarkably different European poets of the 1990s. Schrott’s scientists are poet-like figures who see the world in a new way, extending perspective and providing an example to the modern-day lyric subject. For Schrott, science is a set of metaphors, a benign language of poetry. In Grünbein’s poetry, however, science is a threat, a dominant, sanitising influence on modern life which, far from raising up humans as adventurers and explorers, diminishes them. Science here reveals only the serious meaninglessness of life and is taken up in the poetry for bravura provocation.
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The Ex-GDR Poet and the People
German Life and Letters 52.4 (1999), 490-505

Post-Wende poetry shows both older and younger poets coming to terms with a new self-understanding. At the Wende, these writers were swayed anew by abstract ideals, which at first seemed to match the aims of the civil demonstrations. Ultimately, however, the people sought western-style democracy and the end of German division, whilst many GDR writers and intellectuals were sceptical about unification. This made them ‘unpopular’ in a way that had been inconceivable under GDR circumstances. Many poems assess poets’ loss of social function: they express a sense of dispossession and descent from a position of presumed significance. Dialogue is one important aspect of their comparison between past and present: this essay identifies poets’ dread of writing into a void where literature has no resonance, analysing laments for the loss of the imagined relationship between the GDR poet and the GDR people.
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