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Uber die dunkle Flache: Gedichte 1986-1993.

In the first line of the title poem in Uber die dunkle Flache, the second collection by Manfred Peter Hein to appear in two years, a light appears "above the dark surface" and shadowy features of a strangely hybrid landscape begin to emerge. Images from the natural world mingle with those of a purely linguistic nature on this terrain: "Trummerfeld" and "Felsblock" coexist alongside "Rede" and "Vers." The assertion in the final verse by the lyric "I" of its sole responsibility for this landscape points to the poem's significance for Hein's private poetics. It is a highly fragmented and fragmentary extended metaphor for both the bane and blessing of the poet's existence. His hypersensitivity toward language predisposes him to an acute awareness of its inadequacies while it simultaneously exposes him to its magically creative possibilities.

Hein, a native of East Prussia who has lived in Finland since 1958, writes with extreme economy. Entirely stripped of punctuation, most of his poems consist of short lines dominated by nouns grouped together in strophes of two or three lines in length. The individual word gains particular significance in Hein's work as a kind of last bastion against the growing impotence of language in general. Only in these single words, Hein seems to imply, does the possibility of intersubjective exchange still reside. While the text marks the culmination of the creative process in the poet's mind, largely a process of narrowing, of filtering out the inessential, it marks the point of reversal of this process in the mind of the reader. The poetic word gives encouragement to what the poet calls the "Weite" in one poem, an imaginative enlargement sparked by the text. Hein insists, however, that this volatilization can never simply reenact in reverse the poet's own act of distillation. The poetic text remains an alien body with its own reality, untouched by any discursive efforts on the part of the reader.

Precision as well as economy is a hallmark of Hein's style. Uber die dunkle Flache contains poems written between 1986 and 1993, with the birthdate of each recorded in parentheses following its title in the table of contents. Grouped into five sections of exactly twelve titles apiece, the sixty poems follow on another in chronological order. In the context of such precision, the conspicuous break in this chronology from 27 August 1989 to 30 December of that year gives rise to interesting speculation about this self-imposed but apparently apolitical exile from East Germany.

Francis Michael Sharp University of the Pacific
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Author:Sharp, Francis Michael
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1994
Words:419
Previous Article:Das Land, das ich erdachte: Gedichte 1990-1993.
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