13 March 2013

Luscious faith, left-wing activism and one poet: Michael Buselmeier.

Dante’s German: The Catharsis (2)

by Michael Buselmeier.  
Pained-lust, chained burden, you say, you are the field

of God’s graveyard world; you are of life

in chewy circles of death. I’m the bread, the breath

the wine in chalice bright, the word of stone, 

tanned hide, the flag red and white,

the limes’ blossom in the park, the birches’ call,

the incense-smell, the talk of birds, the bells

so near in the wind, as I, half-blind with sleep,

threw open the shutters, and there the children knew

kneeling on the petals, O and A, A and O.    

Will we be the last, to feel God lead us

under the canopy of cloth, winding through the lanes?

to swing ourselves heavenwards, wreathed in jasmine,

singing songs that strawberry ice-cream’s spilt on? 

And at the rear the shimmering monstrance.

(In publishing this workshop-translation, I'm making use of the German "right of citation" or "Zitatrecht". All rights for the original German text, "Dante deutsch: Die Läutering (2)", remain, of course,  with Mr Buselmeier's publisher, Das Wunderhorn Verlag, Heidelberg, Germany. I, Henry Holland, reserve rights for that part of any future published translation of Mr Buselmeier's poem, which uses my text above.)
       Blogs aren't meant to be finished things. Why should they match the academic & aesthetic standards that you'd expect from a printed book on the same subject? As most bloggers aren't being paid, it would be foolhardy of them to invest too much time in their online writing. 

      That said, here's a snapshot of a poetry & a poet who needs to be talked about now, before there's time to finish & perfect, time to smooth him for a chapter in a book. The poet's Michael Buselmeier, the poetry book could be called Dante's German in a not-yet written English edition; the German title is Dante deutsch, and came out last year. The section of that poetry quoted & translated by me above is a depiction of the processions for the Feast of Corpus Christi, a religious event still celebrated with vigour in small towns & villages in Catholic southern Germany & in Austria. Carpets made from petals, painstakingly laid out to picture, for example, a smiling Mary embracing an angel, adorn the ground in front of houses & the sides of streets. The consecrated bread, the circular host, is carried in the "monstrance", something like a mini sedan-chair – covered in gold & jewels with sides open so the public can see in – & paraded through the towns.

     For those of you filled with ambivalence or even antipathy for all things Catholic, the fact that Buselmeier originally made a name for himself in the early 80s with a novel in which a left-wing protagonist passionately protects his threatened urban habitat, may add a twist of lemon to the story -- (The Fall of Heidelberg / Der Untergang von Heidelberg, 1981).** On first sight German Catholicism and the grassroots-left are two worlds which could not be further apart. But look again, and you will find attitudes & behaviours shared by the two groups. A commitment to the cause that goes miles beyond the bounds of reason. A belief that the end (the triumph of Catholic values or the triumph of left-wing goals) can justify the means. And a need to do the same thing again and again, the need for ritual. Parading the streets following a piece of chewy dry bread, transformed into the body of Christ. To be seen again this year on the 30th of May. Or the left marching on the 1st of May, same old slogans, same old beer & sausages; the more energetic among them staying up to nightfall of that day, when the ritual throwing of bottles at the riot police, the ritual retaliatory riot police charge, the ritual sofa burning on the streets of Hamburg & other larger German cities commences.

** I made extensive use of Michael Braun's article about Michael Buslelmeier, p. 18, issue 3, 2012, of the print edition of Volltext to write this blog post.