Thursday, 6 February 2014

C O N C R E T E



RESOLVED TO BEGIN I LAY AWAKE AT FOUR O'CLOCK IT WAS COMPLETELY DARK AT FIRST IN VIENNA WITH A YELL I FLUNG OPEN THE WINDOWS THE WORLD A MONSTER BUT I MUST BREAK LOOSE I GOT THE KETTLE ON I LOOKED STEADILY AT THE DESK WONDERING WHEN MY WORK WILL TAKE SHAPE IT'S FRIGHTENING AND SUDDENLY WITH A DEVILISH LAUGH I THOUGHT I'LL NEVER DO IT ONLY A MADMAN SOMEONE DEMENTED COULD HEAR IT CLEARLY BEETHOVEN! AT THIS MOMENT TAKEN OVER THE HOUSE COMPLETELY BECAUSE I AM NO LONGER CAPABLE OF WRITING IF ONLY I HAD A FRIEND! WE NEED SOMEONE FOR OUR WORK AND WE CONSTANTLY OVERRATE AND UNDERRATE OURSELVES PERHAPS I'VE MADE TOO MANY NOTES WITH SCORN AND CONTEMPT HAVING ALWAYS BELIEVED THAT PUBLISHING IS SENSELESS FOLLY AND EVIDENCE OF A CERTAIN DEFECT OF CHARACTER WHATEVER THE CONSEQUENCES ON THE OTHER HAND OLD PRINCE RUSPOLI ALTERNATES BETWEEN SCHOPENHAUER AND NIETZSCHE EACH MONTH AND DANGEROUS PEOPLE FROM FLORENCE TYPICAL OF THE SO-CALLED UPPER CRUST NEVER OUT OF THE LIMELIGHT OF THE MOST SUPERFICIAL KIND WHEN ON HER BED I FOUND PROUST'S COMBRAY THROWN DOWN AS IF IN A FIT OF RAGE BECAUSE I WANTED TO START WORK ON MENDELSSOHN BARTHOLDY AS EVERYBODY KNOWS BUT I DIDN'T PURSUE THESE SPECULATIONS AND I WON'T NINETY PERCENT OF THE TIME

- one of the postmodernist methods of constructing a poem consists of taking a phrase or word per page from a favourite book, in my case Thomas Bernhard's novel Concrete, and assembling them in order as in  my example here - obviously Bernhard's novel Concrete is not written in pink Helvetica upper case -

what you see above comprises fragments of text from the first 35 or so pages, the longest fragment perhaps 5 words and the shortest just one word - the book is 154 pages in length so the purist would have to keep going - right through to the bitter end and the final word in Concrete which is anxiety - 



9 comments:

  1. I intend to try this over the weekend Gwil - I find it absolutely fascinating.

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  2. The capital letters disturbed me. The words put together in this way obscure/alter the meaning to be more black and despairing than the original intended (but I have not read the original work so I do not know). The (almost) complete absence of punctuation gives it a pace. I wanted to shout as I read it. Perhaps this is what you wanted.

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  3. Pat, I look forward to reading the result. I hope you put it on your blog.

    Rachel, The intention was as you felt it. It's meant to disturb, have pace, and capture some of the despair in the original. So I kept true to the spirit of the original and Bernhard and brought out the desperation of the original story. The capital letters were meant to imitate letters carved in concrete. So a monument to Bernhard you could say.

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  4. Your result was very good. I will also try it. However, I find it difficult to get my ahead around this postmodern idea of poetry construction though. Call it what you like I suppose.

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  5. It's a great way of learning because after a while the eye hones in on the phrase on the page that's poetic. Bernhard in his later works is a repetitive writer, that is he repeats and repeats the key phrases so with him it's easy. But you could use Shakespeare or Virginia Wolf or even an instruction book for self assembly furniture. All what's gone before is grist to the bardic mill.

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  6. Most poets plod along until they "find their voice" as it is called. In other words they are content to remain at the place they now find themselves. They are comfortable with this place and their readers are too. It is familiar and reassuring. But it is not revolutionary. It is not Shakespeare. For Shakespeare rewrote the English language.
    Fortunately in the absence of a modern Shakespeare there are some poets, who are not content merely to "find their voice". These are the poets of potential genius. These are the poets who are willing to steal from the voices of the contented others and bring us new music. And these are the poets we need to keep our eye on for it is with them that progress is to be made.

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  7. Thomas Bernhard was one such. Bernhard McLintock's excellent translation brings out the poetry effect which is always present in Bernhard's original German text.

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  8. If I have not already read a Thomas Bernhard I must. Perhaps I have.

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