Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Harmony is death! Astrid Lampe talks to Nia Davies

It’s now well over a month since the second North Wales International Poetry Festival ended and I’ve been reflecting on how the experience has shifted my view of poetry. Encountering so many new poetic approaches was a multidirectional but pleasurable linguistic confusion! One particular approach that has altered my way of thinking about poetry is Astrid Lampe’s poetry and her words ‘harmony is death’. Like many of the other poets at the festival her approach opened up a space for me to think in new ways about what poetry is, what it can be and what working with text as a medium means. I asked Astrid to expand upon what she meant by these memorable words. Here is her reply:

‘People think that the best poem is a perfect performance. But to me that is death. People stick to death by worshipping monuments. They stick to death by adoring great poems and their perpetual value. Established beauty, I find, especially in the long run, quite boring. To me poetry is a handy tool within reach for everyday surviving. By being adorers, we rely even more on the great poets who wrote all the amazing stuff than we rely on our own verbalization, our own reading skills. Language, thought and ideas are moving all the time. It is not a fountain - it doesn’t spurt up in one go. The adventure is in the process - poetry is an open space not a narrative. Every new poem is, as well as an artistic contribution, a fresh definition of what poetry is or can be. 
I don’t even like the idea of a poem. I prefer ‘poetry’ because there is no final pinning down of language, it is about decisions, choices. It is about media, particularly the new media, and it’s all changing all the time. It is very good to have a strong idea but the moment you adore your idea you will be a slave to it. Poetry is not a programme. I like to move through poetry as I move through space.’
And here is one of Astrid's poems with translations into Welsh by Eurig Salisbury and into English by Dianne Butterman. 



al mijn werk is lichamelijk 
ook als ik geen lichamen ik

ook als ik geen -  
ben ik een verpersoonlijking van deze poëzie
ik kan me niet beter uitdrukken dan in mijn werken 
mijn ik is er tot in de intiemste aard in verwerkt

ook als ik geen lichamen ik

wat ik me voorneem is helder 
maar mijn uitwerking wil daar altijd aan voorbij 
wat ik me voorneem is helder 
maar mijn voornemen wil altijd oplossen 

niets liever dan dat 

(oplossen oplossen) 

er op los in dit werk dat ik niet ken

veelal pakt het zo uit dat het verdomd lijkt - ‘verdomd…’
of ik met dit werk een taboe had willen slechten 

maar ik zou niet weten wat voor taboe (laat staan óf het een taboe)
deze waterende vrouw 

ik portretteerde haar zoals ik zelf water

ik laat het gelukzalig lopen



corfforol yw fy ngwaith
hyd yn oed os wyf nid cyrff wyf

hyd yn oed os wyf nid –
y farddoniaeth hon wedi’i phersonoli wyf i
nid wyf yn medru mynegi fy hun yn well nac ar gerdd
yr hyn wyf yn y modd mwyaf personol

hyd yn oed os wyf nid cyrff wyf

mae’r hyn yr wyf yn ei gynllunio ar fy nghyfer yn eglur
ond mae f’ymhelaethu â’i fryd bob tro ar fynd ymhellach
mae’r hyn yr wyf yn ei gynllunio ar fy nghyfer yn eglur
ond mae fy nghynlluniau â’u bryd bob tro ar ddod i fwcwl

dim mwy na hynny

(i fwcwl, i fwcwl)

dod â’r peth i fwcwl yn y gerdd ddieithr hon

daw’n aml i’r amlwg ei bod yn edrych o beth diawl – ‘i’r diawl ag e …’
fel pe bawn i’n ben set yn y gerdd hon ar dorri tabŵ

ond wn i ddim sut fath o dabŵ (os tabŵ wedi’r cwbl)
y fenyw hon sy’n piso

mae’n piso’n union fel yr wyf i’n piso

yr wyf yn gadael iddo lifo’n braf

Cyfieithwyd gan Eurig Salisbury



all my work is bodily
also if I no bodies I

also if I no –
I am a personification of this poetry
I cannot express myself better than in my works
my I is integrated into that in the most intimate way
also if I no bodies I

what I plan for myself is clear
but my elaboration always wants to go beyond that
what I plan for myself is clear
but my plans always want to resolve

nothing better than that

(resolve resolve)

to resolve it in this work that I do not know

often it works out that it damned well looks – ‘damn it…’
as though through this work I wanted to break a taboo

but I don’t know what kind of taboo (let alone if a taboo)
this pissing woman

I portrayed her the way I pass water

I allow it to blissfully flow

Translated by Diane Butterman

You can read another poem 'Hollands Diep' by Astrid Lampe in English and Welsh translation on the festival website: 

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