UB. …yeah, but, if you think about them, Baudelaire—I’ve never thought about them this way—Rilke, Celan, I mean there is a reason that I moved toward them from a certain direction, I started with Baudelaire and then I went to Celan. My native language is German. I couldn’t get to Rilke until I had passed through Celan…I am keen to read The Rilke Alphabet.
GW. …why do you think that is…
UB. …who deconstructs—Celan deconstructs German in a very fundamental way, in a way where you can’t really reconstitute it afterwards. That’s why I call him the last poet of modernity. He’s at the end of a tradition and of a language used in a certain way. I’m not sure if that can ever be redone. And for him this is because it passes through being the language of a kind of mechanized genocide that is not easily dissociated from German as a language. And for me Rilke was too–the German was too melodious and it was too good, in a way. It was too complete, and actually had this promise of transcendence. And I thought, oh he’s promising something greater in German. And then I went back to Rilke after Celan and I translated Rilke into English. So, in some ways, what I find in Rilke is that it’s not the German which makes this promise, but he as a poet is continually trying to find this other place in himself to have some greater awareness, which means it’s not bound up with his German and his incredibly great gift for poetry. He was one of the greatest, a gifted rhymer—he was rhyming way too much. Lou Andreas-Salomé said to him early on, “you’re a great poet” –when he was 19 and she was his lover, she’s 36—and she says, “you’re really great and really talented but you really are overdoing it with the rhyming” (laughs). Take the foot off the pedal a little bit. It’s too much. It was too much in a way, too much “poeticity” in his poetry. And then Rilke kind of pares it down. So in the Elegies, later on, they actually, in a weird way, take away the poetic aspects, the artifice, and get to something—for me—more essential. He gets to something about how language relates us to the world.
Saturday, April 05, 2014
Capping the bottle with the genie in it
Ulrich Baer interviewed on reading, writing and other things that matter: