Sustenance

I love poetry. I have always read books yet come late-ish to poetry. I must have been 15 when I really dug poetry, having read batches of classics and contemporary novels, from all sorts of cultures, yet mostly in German with the few exceptions of the books I started to read in English at roughly the same time. My discovery of poetry happened when my self awareness really took off, when I was first really manhandled by depressions and desperate. I had, by that time, written hundreds of pages of prose, stories, mostly, parts of projected novels, this sort of stuff, (I burned all of this when I moved to East Germany at 22, because I didn’t want anyone else to read it and wasn’t able to lug the thick stacks of hard cover notebooks to east Germany. No place etc.), so I was familiar with expressing myself through artificially arranged words (yes, that phrase is questionable and imprecise at best, but that all you get for now), but at 15 or 16 I tried more compressed forms. At that time I started to act in our high school theatre, and the theatricality of a few well-placed words intrigued me, hence my early interest in writers like Reiner Kunze, Erich Fried and Said, anyone who knows them in German will probably know what I mean. I can’t stand them now, mostly, and I am embarrassed, even, having liked them so much at the time. The major shift, however, was my discovery (via this story) of Kafka, first (if any prose writer is close to being a poet as far as density and precision is concerned, it is surely ol’ Franz), then Hilde Domin/Rose Ausländer and then Ingeborg Bachmann. Bachmann was the writer who truly pushed me into writing and into poetry. Formal, passionate, humorous, enigmatic and clear at the same time, tender, wondrous and yet harsh and cold, within the same collection of poems, light and yet always at the edge of a strange darkness, if not subsumed by that darkness. Lowry’s explorer from Hell, that was Bachmann, for me. After her, Celan, and then English poets, such as Plath, Hughes and Berryman. These days, although, quantitatively, I read far more prose, fiction and ‘non-fiction’, than poetry, my poetry shelf boards are the core of my personal ‘library’. When I moved to Bonn, with only two bags, a friend’s address and the decision to study literature there instead of economics in Chemnitz, the only books I took in my bag were volumes of poetry. Music and poetry, to sustain myself. The importance of poetry to me cannot be overestimated, although, more and more, my own production of poetry has become at least as integral a part as my consumption of it. Writing poetry can sustain me as well as reading poetry, sometimes. I only notice that now I write it but it’s perfectly true. Strange, isn’t it? I provide my own sustenance. Is that like drinking yr own urine? Does that mean I have developed too enormous an ego?

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