Why are empty verses used in poetry?

Day tingale

Gaps and emptiness

The poetry column. By Marie Luise Knott
18.02.2015. The English poet Lavinia Greenlaw was also translated in Germany until the mid-2000s. Then the thread broke. The reading is still worthwhile, as a look at Greenlaw's new volume of poetry "The Casual Perfect" proves. An encouragement.Subscribe to the Tagtigall newsletter
The small or large border transport of poetry is not least about weighing and weighing words, sounds and worlds of images. We cruising through strange seas of poets and expose our own inner realms and imagery to these encounters. For centuries, poets have also been reading and translating whatever "poetic booty" they can find on the net - not least to irritate their conversations with themselves.

For a while found the verses of the English poet Lavinia Greenlaw (Born 1962) in this country attention. For the first time, as far as I could find out, her poems appeared in 1995 in the "Atlas der neue Poesie", published by the editor and poet Joachim Sartorius, translated by Karin Graf. At that time, Sartorius wrote in the foreword: "Books are still being printed and sold that, according to the laws of the market, should no longer exist. In South America, poetry is experiencing a new boom. In England, the narrow volumes of poetry of a young generation of poets are reaching Michael Hofmann, Lavinia Greenlaw, Glyn Maxwell - playfully two, three, even four editions. There are enough indications that we will experience a renouveau of poetry towards the end of this century. The "poetic booty" - according to Walter Benjamin about Charles Baudelaire - is growing be."

What Sartorius predicted happened to Lavinia Greenlaw: In 1998, the editor Christian Döring published the volume "Nachtaufnahme" at Dumont; In 2006, shortly before Döring's departure from Dumont, the band "Minsk" followed. You won't even find the latter used on Amazon today. The compression in "Minsk" is particularly magical. The band was highly acclaimed when it was released in England in 2003 and won the T.S. Eliot Prize nominated. The German edition also received critical acclaim when it appeared - Katharina Narbutovic praised the phenomena of light, Sibylle Cramer the spaces of nature, Meike Fessmann the air that makes every line float, and Thomas Poiss was amazed at the high art of transformation of the private into the general. Greenlaw won "poetic reality from the reality of words," he wrote. That was in 2006.

What makes for the fullness and perfection of life

It only came back when I stopped to consider
The small ways in which a garden holds water,
and paused half way through the door in suspense
like the dream which early that morning
Had flicked its magnificent tail then was gone.

What constitutes the abundance and perfection of life

It only came back to my mind when I paused
to contemplate the little way a garden holds water
a tense pause in the door frame, like the dream,
the one early that morning with his splendid one
Tail whipped and then disappeared.

(German Raphael Urweider)

A person is remembering something important here, just as they stop to look at something incidental, namely the different ways a garden collects and binds water. But the "it" that the ego remembers - "It only came back" - remains untold between the lines. In this way these verses stage the fleetingness of every moment that has already passed at the moment of its realization - "then was gone".

Since the publication of the volume "Minsk" it has become quiet in Germany about Lavinia Greenlaw, although the author has continued to publish in England. The British Council recently invited Lavinia Greenlaw to Berlin to bring her back into our perception.

In 2011 the volume of poetry "The Casual Perfect" was published. What does the title mean? "The incidentally completed", or: "the completed accidentalness", or: "the completely accidental" one puzzles. Indeed, the title quotes a passage from a poem written by the American poet Robert Lowellthat hardly anyone in this country knows about his girlfriend, the poet Elizabeth Bishop, which, like Silvia Plath, found a certain echo in this country in the course of the women's movement.

Robert Lowell wrote:

..... Thu /
you still hang your words in air, ten years
unfinished, glued to your noticeboard, with gaps
or empties for the unimaginable phrase-
unring muse who makes the casual perfect?

The background to this is that Elizabeth Bishop obviously, as the lines tell, pinned many of the beginnings or sketches of her poems to a notepad. So stood the "Gaps and emptiness"of the not-yet-presented, always questioning or demanding before her eyes, sometimes whole ten years long, until the poet one day, imperturbably, closed a gap with an idea and thus closed the chance for a moment.

The peninsulas take the water between your thumb and forefinger
like women feeling the yard goods.

one reads from Elizabeth Bishop in the "Atlas of New Poetry".

Lavinia Greenlaw said in an interview that writing in "The Causal Perfect" is fed up Shades of blur In the language; sometimes words emerged from impenetrable forests - "out of the unpenetrable woods", as she quotes Elizabeth Bishop. With Bishop Greenlaw shares the insistence on that Unfinished and the attempt to capture those moments in which perception occurs in the first place. In "The Casual Perfect" too, the air consists of smells; Days run into the void and many verses are set at night or at dusk.

One day I'll learn to listen
to the city beneath the snow,
the agony in the irony,
the lover as I go

A new way of hearing: under the beauty of the snow cover the gray city, behind the courage of irony the actual despair, when leaving the pain of the abandoned. - One sees immediately: English is a flexible language; in addition, German often has a hard time with the seemingly so light-handed loose ends and blurring. It is regrettable that so far no German publisher has undertaken to publish "The Casual Perfect" bypassing the laws of the market. What is missing is poet's courage and Publisher chutzpah - and, as always, the grace of the moment.


For further reading:
- Lavinia Greenlaw, "Nachtaufnahme", German by Gerhard Falkner and Nora Matocza, Cologne 1998;
- Lavinia Greenlaw, "Minsk", German by Raphael Urweider, Cologne 2006;
- Lavinia Greenlaw, "The Casual Perfect", London (Faber & Faber) 2011;
- "Atlas of New Poetry", edited by Joachim Sartorius, Reinbek 1995.

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