Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Our house divides the dead, by Thomas Bernhard

In a rural setting Thomas Bernhard spent many a grim winter in his sickbed listening to the howling wind or to the silence of the snow. In his poems sound is important. We may imagine him, between fits of coughing, listening to the suspicious creaks and groans of the old house; and to the birds he feared, the crows cawing in the trees; or maybe to the footsteps of a passer-by.
The following is a Poet-in-Residence translation of Thomas Bernhard's poem Unser Haus trennt die Toten.

from sun and moon
and lets the grey flutes
spring apart along cold walls
and the lost summer's eyelids
freeze under the copper roof.
With the blackbird
the river groans, divides green from red
and snow from tears.
In midnight crows'-foot crushing wind
the flowers slumber
and under cobwebs
the laughter of the fattened pig.
Our house sends forth poisonous clouds
and fear to the forbidden towns.
Lying slaughtered
under the mouldy door
the poverty of my winter message.

25 Feb 2009 gw


  1. Enjoyed the images invoked by this poem - thanks.

  2. Thanks also. I've just tidied it up a little bit. Nothing drastic!

  3. Pretty dour stuff Gwilym.
    My copy of Ink sweat and years has arrived this morning - there is some interesting stuff in it. Hope it is going to become an annual thing. Thanks for telling me about it. Liked your poem about the old man.

  4. Yes Weaver, Bernhard is dour but not so dour as Trackl. Wait till I get round to him. Then you'll see what dour is.
    I'm pretty sure the IS&T will become an annual publication and I'm very pleased that you find it interesting. I have a couple of poems on the 'Recusant' website (LINKed) that might interest you.
    There's some great work on there. I hope Alan Morrison publishes it as a collection some day. He's going to send his latest book for review on PiR.

  5. Interesting poem. If it is typical, a sort of dark Dylan Thomas. The last three lines could almost be a haiku.

  6. Dominic, I have also felt that there is a dark Dylan Thomas to some of Bernhard's poetry.
    It's surprising too how good Under Milk Wood sounds in German. That's the other side of the purple milk token (remember them? , if you left one overnight on your front step it would change into a bottle of milk).


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