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Eine Kleine Kunstmaschine: 34 Sestinen.

Whether or not he thought of the Provencal troubadour Arnaut Daniel, of Dante Alighieri, or of his fellow German poet Martin Opitz, Oskar Pastior presses his liberated word compositions into strict form. As if he wanted the mercury like forces of his language to be firmly contained in an old poetic device, Pastior offers here thirty-four sestinas in outwardly classical fashion. Each of the six stanzas thus offers six lines and a concluding triplet, also known as a tomada or an envoi. Literary history aside, the poet introduces a possibly postmodern facade encapsulating a highly modern composition of words with no intended meaning. His sestinas are collages of words reflecting a confusing world of slogans, word torsi, foreign elements, noncommittal phrases, and non-sequitur elements--to no other avail than to entertain both the creator himself and a willing readership. In some of the selections Pastior even follows Daniel's rhyme scheme of a b c d e f / f a e b d c / c f d a b e / e c b f a d / d e a c f b / b d f e c a, ending with the envoi of a b c, as in "pendelmasse auf mandelpassage" (pendulum mass on almond passage). Still, his word games continue to flow, recalling the language magnetism of e. g. Thomas Bernhard, but with no plot to which to hold on.

The sestinas are followed by a long epilogue and footnotes, which again offer nothing but a play with words, which show everything words can display in rhapsodic eloquence of dimensions wholly independent from logical language. For example, the triplet in "sestine mit wurfeln" (sestina with dice) reads as follows: "gleich sieht ein auge einen lampenschirm / aber drei augen sieht von rechts das teeglas / d. h. funf augen sehn mir durch die brust" (soon an eye sees a lampshade / but three eyes sees the teacup from the right / i.e. five eyes are looking through my chest). It seems meaningful due to several clauses which could make sense, but that appearance turns out to be misleading, a fact which is revealed in line 2. Here, for the sake of the wordplay, grammar is corrupted (three eyes sees); one could suggest the poet retains his freedom by any and all means. This is language adopted as a creative medium for an artistic reality second to none.

Peter Pabisch University of New Mexico

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Author:Pabisch, Peter
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1994
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