Hermann Jan Ooster
is the perennial Berlin artisan-poet – stonecarver by profession, anarchist by political passion, Berliner and European by conviction, philosopher by default and Lebenskünstler (an “artist of life”) by nature. His many books of poetry include Positionslichter and Die Welt ist ein Museum absichtsloser Katastrophen.
I like this man’s poetry because he takes on the innate rationality and even bureaucracy of the German language and squeezes feeling, yearning, regret, wonder and beauty from it, like an engineer trying to measure and quantify the properties of his heart. And he succeeds – while many of his poems are political critical, the ones I have chosen here are deeply human and full of yearning.
Positionslichter: All 8 Poems from the collection
At the River Oder
The Lament of Verifiable Norms
Space Time Continuum
The Land of God
The 7th and 8th Continents
The Poet’s Dream
Silke Andrea Schuemmer
lives in two worlds: She has won prizes for her poetry and written columns in women’s magazines; she has published humorous love novels and been awarded literary stipends. If you even wanted to know how modern poets live and earn their living, this is it. Born in Aachen, living in Berlin, she has published several volume of poems and teaches poetry at a Berlin university.
I am fascinated by her poetry because she is at once an obstructionist and a romantic. She builds intentionally difficult poetic structures (which I can only partially transcribe into English), pushing the grammar to its limits, yet underneath is a deep love for what we used to call the Romantic – trees in the landscape, farmers in their fields, church steeples. Many poems in her latest collection, “Organische Portraits,” describe nature through the perspective of strange things growing in a laboratory.
Walther von der Vogelweide
is the most famous of German troubadours, or Minnesänger (“singers of love”). He is considered a poet today but really he was a singer/songwriter, and his poems were song lyrics he performed for a wide variety of occasions and reasons ranging from folksy festivals to snobbish courtly gatherings to spreading political propaganda for his patron. German Minnesang can get very theoretical – a lot of his lyrics discuss what love is in an almost analytical way, and he is often credited with raising the idea of love from the practical to a philosophical, larger-than-life level.
I can’t say for sure what attracts me to the Middle Ages so much that I studied medieval literature in Munich, but I can way what I love Walther’s poetry: Though his poems (or song lyrics) are a bit too simple and too talky for modern audiences, I see him again and again building up a metaphor or idea that takes him to strange places, then coming back to his audience and what they want to know: That humanity is a wonder and love is eternal.
The Poet’s Dream
The Opposite of Love
The Beautiful Thief
Jo Francis van den Berg
gained a Europe-wide reputation as a photographer for high-end advertising campaigns including a famous reenacting of the Da Vinci “Last Supper” painting. In his second life, the Belgian-German has turned to his true passion, writing fiction and poetry, often combining poems about the life-affirming spirituality of nature with photography.
What I like about his poetry is his radical happiness – he looks at life and sees that it is good, even in its discontents. His poems are simple yet deep, and always intensely life-affirming, and these poems are informed by his photographic eye, which sees flowers as the best metaphor for the fleeting beauty of life.
From my Blossoms
The Beautiful Thief
More to Come
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