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Schaltstelle: Neue deutsche Lyrik im Dialog.

Schaltstelle: Neue deutsche Lyrik im Dialog. Ed. by KAREN LEEDER. (German Monitor, 69) Amsterdam: Rodopi. 2007. 541 pp. 110 [euro]. ISBN 978-90-420-2282-9.

This volume includes texts about upheavals in modern Germany with metaphors that also express the globalization of ideas, techniques, and problems. Karen Leeder's introduction knits together approaches to individual poets, specific themes, collections of poetry, and an underlying concern with language. Reading the seven sections of lyrics reveals metaphors that explore the sensitivities of poets seemingly uncomfortable in worlds of language floating free among multiple potential associations.

Poets struggle against threats of intrusion by natural and technological forces, suppression of individuality, and less linguistic precision. 'Wir wissen nicht, wohin wir gehn' (p. 506), writes Volker Braun, looking forward, while Lutz Seiler attacks false promises of the past: 'kein | labyrinth & keine chandoshysterien, nur | wortgeruch & falsche nelken' (p. 263).

Anna Chiaroni captures the central problem writing about Heinz Czechowski: 'Das Ich als gequalter Korper des europdischen Menschen ist zugleich besetztes Gehirn, dem alte Utopien ins Gedachtnis schallen. Und das Gedicht gewahrt, was hinter dem Horizont verschwindet' (p. 44). Christine Cosentino emphasizes Volker Braun's revelation of the contradictory, frightening nature of the modern world, especially in his volume Tumulus (1999). Gerrit-Jan Berendse focuses on Adolf Endler's adaptation of surrealism fusing past and present.

In a more critical, perceptive essay Hermann Korte shows how intensive reading of Gottfried Benn and Paul Celan incited debates about aesthetic autonomy. Thus Durs Grunbein's use of poetry to fend off the intrusion of reality on his sensitivity contrasts with Wolfgang Thumler's understanding of poetry as an interplay between breathing and language, whereas Peter Waterhouse sees the poem as a form of Jacob's ladder from another world. For Thomas Kling the poem as a form of memory demanding performance takes Celan's poetics a step further, while Marcel Beyer understands how Celan's staccato style reflects the speech qualities of poetic language.

Georgina Paul, exploring affinities between Friederike Mayrocker's textual constructs and Elke Erb's processual writing with poetic tension and coherent patterning in Unschuld, du Licht meiner Augen (1994), shows how much Erb was inspired by meeting Mayrocker in 1991. Paul's analysis points convincingly to self-regeneration that went beyond mutual influence, their poetry providing closer integration and understanding. Michael Eskin presents, at times speculatively, Durs Grunbein's involvement with Osip Mandelstam's description of Dante as 'the Descartes of metaphor' and imaginative involvement with Descartes in Vom Schnee oder Descartes in Deutschland (2003). Eskin claims that metaphor seen as a figure of time rather than logic enables the poet to slip in and out of masks without losing his own personality.

Cliches playfully allow readers to appreciate the integration between language and thought, according to Katrin Kohl, who defines their use by Ernst Jandl, Andreas Okopenko, and Oskar Pastior, but does not sufficiently consider their power in performance. lain Galbraith argues that Raoul Schrott's texts create a paradoxical, unique role for metaphor in the development of language and the emergence of consciousness. Karen Leeder highlights a poetics of correspondence with a new sense of dialogue in Ulrike Draesner's kugelblitz (2005), relates this to others' work, and reveals her as more than a poet of love. Sound and associative language combine to produce poems that are both a process and experimental instruments. This is well amplified in Ruth Owen's examination of bodies in contemporary poetry giving them an interior voice as a location of being. Kathrin Schmidt and Barbara Kohler express tensions between the private and political in childhood memories in the GDR, according to Maurizio Pirro. Heike Bartel uses 'bypasses' to circumscribe the complexities of Anne Duden's prose poem Herzgange (2000), where metaphors open up meanings redolent of the poet's own past in Germany and England.

In conversation with Anna Chiaroni, Heinz Czechowski highlights differences between poets in East and West Germany, explaining how poetry conveys personal and general feelings often in contrast with political realities. Wolfgang Ertl examines childhood in Wolf Kirsten's post-unification lyrics that express both an idyllic lost world and harsh realities. Such poetry avoids sentimentality, and uses traditional methods to convey grief and anger. Cheryl Dueck's challenging essay on Brigitte Oleschinski emphasizes language crossing cultural boundaries in her recent works. Poetic language breaks on uncertainties in the inner self, but can provide a secondary orality parallel to innocence in Kleist's Marionettentheater, to achieve intersections of time and transference into performance art. Anneka Metzger and Birgit Dahlke explore the originality of B2rbara Kdhler's experiments with language as spatial structures akin to some examples of environmental art. Their mirror-effects create new forms of communication between poet and reader.

The final three essays by Peter Geist, Michael Braun, and Erk Grimm ask if criteria such as realism or the linguistic avant-garde apply to the anthology Lyrik von Jetzt. 74 Stimmen (2003). Peter Geist explores radically new perceptions of the world and traditional norms, whereas Michael Braun sees a 'reinvigoration of the nature poem' (p. 463) alongside abrupt changes, new language systems, and specialist vocabularies. Erk Grimm shows how genre classifications cannot signify new perceptions and realities, poetic incompletion reflecting myriad demands and uncertainties in every moment. Grimm's reference to phrases such as 'ultra-realism' and 'soft surrealism' expands his appreciation of contemporary German lyrics to international developments. These more general contributions not only put into context many of the individual writers discussed elsewhere in this volume, they also provide important points of departure for further discussion of a diverse and lively branch of modern German and international literature.


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Title Annotation:text in English
Author:Keith-Smith, Brian
Publication:The Modern Language Review
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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