19 May 2005

Poetological ideas

Some answers to the question: what is poetry?

Poetry is “die Antiware schlechthin”, “the ultimate non-merchandise”. [Hans Magnus Enzensberger, contemporary German poet, ex-West]

Poetry is “the imagination pressing back against the pressure of reality”… It achieves “a redress” by virtue of its “liberating and verifying effect upon the human spirit”. [Seamus Heaney, Nobel-prize-winning Northern Irish poet]

Im Protest gegen einen gesellschaftlichen Zustand, den jeder Einzelne als sich feindlich, fremd, kalt, bedrückend erfährt, spricht das Gedicht den Traum einer Welt aus, in der es anders wäre.” “Protesting against social conditions which each individual experiences as inimical, alien, cold and oppressive, the poem expresses dreams of a world in which it would be otherwise.” [Theodor Adorno, German philosopher writing in the mid-20th-century]

Poetry is “unzeitgemäß”, “untimely”. [Michael Hamburger, translator of German poetry into English]

“I have titled this book The Witness of Poetry, not because we witness it, but because it witnesses us.” [Czeslaw Milosz, Nobel-prize-winning Polish poet]

Poetry is “eine Gedächtnismaschine”, “a memory machine”. [Durs Grünbein, contemporary German poet, ex-East]

Kunst ist nicht etwas Geisteswissenschaftliches, sondern etwas Körperliches.” “Art is not part of the humanities, but something corporeal.” [Gottfried Benn, German poet writing in the early to mid- 20th century]