Michael Speier’s Berlin

HauptStadtStudio-TitelSomewhere, be it N.Y. or D.C., Paris or Berlin, I am bound to cross paths with one of the most elegant German poets, & an urban nomad to boot: Michael Speier. It is always a great pleasure to spend an afternoon or a day together, to have a brotherly flaneur to share time & talk. Baudelaire through the lens of Benjamin through the arete of Celan with a dash of O’Hara urbanity & Zukofsky musicality would be one way to describe the poetic sensibility of the man.  And when Michael isn’t around he still is: there are his books of poems, his excellent poetry magazine Park (created in & edited singlehandedly ever since 1976), his ongoing (since 1987)  & incontournable scholarly work as the editor of the Celan-Jahrbuch, his many essays on Celan & others, his anthologies of contemporary German poetry & more. His latest volume of poems, Haupt-Stadt-Studio (Aphaia-Verlag, 2012) needs translation in full (or, better still — a pitch to interested & adventurous young poet-scholars — someone should edit & translate a Selected Speier for a US publisher). Here is a sample from the book, the opening poem from the Berlin section (a section called schlacht um berlin — battle for [or around] Berlin) which has as its epigraph the lines: “one should describe cities the way one does a thought or a feeling”.

WHY EXACTLY ONE SLEEPS we would like to know
why exactly is data ever more often stowed away in clouds
& we in the wadded vacuum of an airport waiting room

why exactly berlin on the horizon just now
tilts its notorious gray again: prognoses
in which evening and morning blur
but why shortly before milk this sucking light
between berghain and paris bar (we’d like to know)
the elegance of air drag when one steps out
into the off- the o-pen between clear sense & heart damage
after the arduously missed occasions
between glasses and unspeakably fatuous eye baths

naturally — one could counter — this depends on the
occasions they don’t distribute themselves evenly
in space time & music or it depends on the
unmanned documents with which
they unscrew one’s soul
on miner-moths in the chestnut alleys
of Stimmann’s  eternal eaves’ height

argue it all out — is it exactly forbidden
to eat the past or to rattle
piercings or concievablenesses
given that the climate capsules keep whirring
in the small ball that hovers near one’s own head
& one doesn’t know why still direction mitte
where the early light’s on white & light first name basis

why then crack open & up to reveal
(frangio ut pare facias) rather head home
into the bötzow biedermeier-bionade
or swaggeringly sweep through the frankfurter
& when the included ask
where’s wenck? tell them in the treasury
& other bunkers here where we lie
all shot to death in this palpebral angle
having discontinued awareness some seven
billion years ago already


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