on life, music etc beyond mainstream

It was years ago when I ordered an anthology with American poetry in the library just to browse. There were only two poems by W.S. Merwin, whom I never heard of, and immediately I was intrigued. I could feel a real und deep experience behind the sentences, but there was a strong element of surrealism and magic, too, and it was this mixture I loved. I bought the books where the chosen poems had taken from: “The Lice” (1967) and “The Carrier of Ladders” (1970), and some of the poems have been my favourites since then and I appreciated them more than German poems of that time.

No poet in Germany seemed to know Merwin, who, by the way, was born in 1927, but in the US he is famous, a two-time Pulitzer winner. This year two books with translations and originals of Merwin´s poems were published in German publishing houses: “Nach den Libellen” (Carl Hanser Verlag) and “The shadow of Sirius / Der Schatten des Sirius” (Leipziger Literaturverlag). In one of the forewords I got the hint for a feature documentary about the life and work of W.S. Merwin, titled “Even though the whole world is burning”. Someone said in this film, people who read Merwin have been affected by his word – I mean affected for life. And I could confirm this, even though it were only a few of his poems, sometimes only a few lines, that hit me strongly and unforgettable. “I with no voice.” Or: „Whatever I have to do has not yet begun.“ Fortulately I think I do have a voice now and I did start with what I had to, but when I read those lines by Merwin I realized I hadn´t.

When Merwin was 21 years old, in 1948, he visited Ezra Pound, who was declared for mentally ill, in Elisabeth hospital in New York to ask for some advice to become good as a poet. (Just imagine that action itself!) Ezra Pound recommended Merwin to travel and to translate. Merwin lived several years in France and returned to the US. His generation´s ailment is the Vietnam War. In the Seventies Merwin studied Zen Buddhism, when an unpleasant incident happened: He and his then companion were forced to strip naked. Merwin emigrated to Hawaii and as I watched the beautiful landscape and the coast line in some way it felt so familiar and immediately I thought of LOST, the series some of the Manafonistas including me are enthusiastic about and which is mostly set in Hawaii. Merwin is not only a very productive poet and of course he changed his poetological approach over time, but he´s also an environmental activist. He did change the climate on Hawaii. He made it 5 degrees colder due to the trees he planted.

I want to end up with my translation of one of Merwin´s poems. „The archaic maker“ was published in “The rain in the trees” (1988). This poem is not typical of Merwin´s poems. It stands out. I think one can´t understand it. It´s part of the mysteriousness of it all.


Der archaische Schöpfer


Der archaische Schöpfer ist natürlich naiv. Wenn er ein Mann ist, hört er zu. Ist er eine Frau, dann hört sie zu. Ein Kind hört jetzt zu. Ein Zug fährt vorbei, wie ein unterirdischer Fluss. Er betritt eine Geschichte.

Der Fluss kann nicht zurück. Die Geschichte geht weiter. Sie verwendet irgendeine Form der Darstellung. Sie benötigt nicht besonders viel Schnickschnack, abgesehen von Wörtern, Singen, Tanzen, Bilder machen und Objekte, die lebenden Formen ähneln. Eigenkonstruktionen.

Der ohrenbetäubende Fluss trägt Eltern, Kinder, ganze Familien wachend und schlafend nach Hause.

Die Geschichte fährt an Steinfarmen auf grünen Hügeln vorbei, am Eingang von Tälern, die ansteigen zu Wäldern voller Sommer und unerhörtem Wasser.

In der Geschichte ist es schon morgen. Eine Zeit der Erinnerungen, nicht korrekt, aber machtvoll. Außerhalb des Fensters ist das Nächste von allem.

Eines von jedem.

Aber hier ist es so, wie es war, und heute,

es selbst

die Luft, die lebendige Luft

das ruhige Wasser.


This entry was posted on Sonntag, 11. November 2018 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Sounds a bit like a latter day Merlin 😉

    Maybe, apart from changing the climate in Hawai, he too might have followed his obsessions of rain making and cloud dancing.

  2. Martina Weber:

    I´m sure he´d be able to do that :)

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