Sunday, May 25, 2008

Two Gigs and a Gottfried Benn

Tonight at the Shore Poets (7.45pm at the Mai Thai, Crichton’s Close, Edinburgh), there’s Stephanie Green, Ken Cockburn, and the incomparable Alan Gillis. I’ll be there!

Tomorrow night, I’ll be lining up with my HappenStance colleagues to read at the Troubadour in London from 8pm. I’m looking forward to that immensely. Should be a terrific evening.

Tony Williams is telling us to Read Gottfried Benn!. I’d certainly like to have a shot. I’ve come across his poetry only in Michael Hamburger’s The Truth of Poetry. As Tony says:

“Benn makes uncomfortable reading in the professionalised world of contemporary letters: his style is idiosyncratic, histrionic, extreme, and rhetorical, in opposition to the dominant style, which is moderate, sober, and uses a regulated jargon.”

It’s like that with most of the poets who truly matter. What they do comes from a personal, idiosyncratic vision that leaves the rest of the world trying to catch up with them – often unwillingly at first.


Anonymous said...

Easy enough to say, not as easy to do ... the only option is to get a 2nd hand copy of 'Primal Vision' (Benn, ed. Ashton), since it's long out of print.

Got it a while ago, but haven't got beyond the dipping-into stage yet and reading it properly.


Tony Williams said...

You're absolutely right that he isn't easy to get hold of - I have Prose, Essays, Poems, also edited by Ashton. I don't know what the overlap is, if any (maybe a re-release under a different title?). There are also selections of the poems in Hofmann's recent Faber book of German poetry and the old Hamburger anthology.

Prose-wise I do enjoy the polemics I referred to in my post, but something different is ‘Block II, Room 66’, a fictionalised account of German officers sitting out the end of the war is guilty perplexity.

Somehow I think dipping in is an apt way of reading Benn - the pieces tend to be short, anyway, and the material is so rich/condensed/wrought that I find the brain needs small doses.