Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category

Gedichte aus Berlin

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

After returning from Berlin I was inspired to finally read the copy of Durs Gr├╝nbein’s “Ashes for Breakfast”, a collection of his poems translated by Michael Hofmann and published by Faber. He’s lived in Berlin for the past 15 years or so, hence the connection. Here are a few of my favourite excerpts:

from “NO. 8″

Astonishment at the brightness

of even the remotest back alleys

on a night of fresh snow—

there it was again

that haiku-unerringness.


what is the whole surreal jokeshop

of terrors compared to the

infinitely chance little

tricks of a poem.


Homo sap., the animal with letters after its name,

The only one to lie, to obey the logic

Of appearance and deception. As you’ll see

If you cast your eye once over a newspaper.

A world of opinions smashed to smithereens.

As any child will tell you, the very first word

Paradoxically produces a misunderstanding

That it takes repetition to clear.


How many gestures are futile, and yet

Their inadequacy keeps them going.

To make menaces at a fly, to lower the head

In mute respect before the departed,

To sweeten your time in solitary by waving

Or greeting, can be diverting

Or decent. It’s all absurd anyway,

Against the slothful clouds.

A voice in Motion

Friday, May 1st, 2009


This past Saturday we had the chance to hear Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate, do a reading. It was a truly moving experience to hear him read his work, which tends to be quite serious in terms of subject matter, ranging over topics like childhood loss, bereavement, WWI, and the list goes on. One thing that amazed both Alex and I was how well he maintained a balance between emotionally charged and downright depressing. He would have you riding at the edge of a tear, but before it could form, he’d have you breaking out with a cathartic chuckle. He was a very charismatic speaker and, as usual, I feel so much is gained by having a bit of introduction and background story going into a poem. There’s nothing like hearing the voice of the author.
Andrew Motion is stepping down from his post as Laureate and that was actually his last public engagement with that title. Typically it is a post held for life, but there has apparently been some conflict between Mr. Motion and his boss (the queen) which has hit the UK papers. Motion has been quite outspoken about what he believes the primary role of Laureate should be (promoting poetry in schools and education and setting up institutions to aid in that) and what are much lesser roles (royal commissions). I suppose there has to be some balance with appeasing your employer, but it seems that he has managed to do a great deal for his cause as well during his time as Laureate by setting up the poetry archive where you can listen to hundreds of great poets reading their own work for free (online). Why not check it out and perhaps listen to Andrew Motion read something.

After the reading we went to Charlie Chan for a late lunch and had Dim Sum, which was great. I think the last time I had Dim Sum was years ago in Boston when my sister Adrienne was there for an internship (2003?). We had some of those half-moon cellophane dumplings filled with prawn, a crab-filled dumpling in soup, mushroom filled (mochi?) pancakes, and some sort of croquettes for our meal, with Jasmine tea on the side. To finish things out we had some amazing cream-custard filled donut-like delights and dew of sago (coconut milk?) with tapioca and sweet potato in it. Yum! It was surprisingly good considering the general quality of Asian food in Cambridge and we thoroughly enjoyed it.