05 June 2005

100 words on a poem: No.5

Bücherverbrennung commonly refers to Nazi bonfires; Lutz Rathenow’s title ‘Bücherverbrennung, Jena (1976)’ locates us in the non-bookburning GDR however. Passive mood (‘als die Freunde geholt wurden’), a target destroying his own works, and a doorbell ringing at 2 a.m. circumscribe the threat from authority. Book-burning shifts from the public square to a domestic interior with ‘Kachelofen’ and to loose, unpublished pages. The poem’s focus, divided between a man’s rhetorical question and a silent woman, is fear. A ‘wann-wann-wann’ structure conveys the time-pressure, as evening becomes after midnight. Perhaps the anticipated criminalisation will come, perhaps not.

See Lutz Rathenow, Verirrte Sterne oder Wenn alles wieder mal ganz anders kommt: Gedichte (Gifkendorf: Merlin, 1995).