Thursday, June 05, 2008

5. Furth i Wald - Michael Hofmann

I loved Furth i Wald, a poem about border towns, borders being one of my own favourite obsessions. MH presents the towns (on, I think, the German-Czech border) as bleak, lonely, nondescript places, but manages to describe them in vivid terms. “A tractor stalled in midfield/ between two goals,” says it all. The towns shift throughout history from one nation to another, so that they have to keep “a spare name in the other language to fall back on.”

The image of nations being like “irregular parcels, tight with fear” is pretty good, and I gritted my teeth at the irony of “the play of searchlights,” as if that’s the single source of amusement. But the closing lines were my favourites:

....................................................................Der Neue
Tag
dawns only twice a week nowadays. With its
progressive-sounding name and millenarian ideals, still
holding the fort for a dwindling readership…

The irony in this poem couldn't get any heavier. It's political without thumping any tubs.

2 comments:

Dave said...

I wish you could post the whole poem! Sounds great.

(Reading about poems I can't read myself is a little like watching other people have sex. Though I understand there are a few who actually enjoy that. :)

Rob said...

It's well worth getting hold of this book if you can, Dave.