Zeitgeistlyrik: Literature Nobel Prize Herta Müller 2009:
UPROOTED & BANISHED (Satis Shroff)
A Banat Swabian poetess
Was born in 1953
In a hamlet called Nitzkydorf,
Which lies in Romania.
She came to Berlin in 1987.
Wrote verses to mete out justice
To the fate of German Romanians,
Who were departed to work camps.
The other way round.
Jews died in concentration camps,
80,000 ethnic Germans from Romania,
Uprooted and banished,
Suffered hunger and death
In the Ukranian camps.
Survival strategies and dreams
At the end of the Second World War.
If Bertold Brecht’s Furcht und Elend
Im Dritten Reich
Told us about the Nazi terror,
Hertha’s verses and prose reveal
The sadness and angst of her lost people.
In a small hamlet in Banat,
Small Herta tells us
In her hard, Banat-German accent,
How hostile her home environment was.
She speaks of her doubts and fears,
For it is plain to see:
She’s made of another genetic material
That made her vulnerable to her environs,
Like underdogs everywhere in this world.
How unbearable for Romanians,
The Banat-Germans had their own
And way of life.
But pray, don’t ethnic Germans say
The same things about migrants
Eking out a living here?
Hertha speaks a poetic language
Of a gone but not lost past,
Of the misery, angst and terror
Felt by her people.
Her books emphasise
The cruel, inhuman face of communism,
Under Nicolae Ceausescu.
A chronist walking
Along the thin line,
Between poetry and terror,
Where every line is a cry
With pregnant titles:
The Fox Was even Then a Hunter (1992),
In the Hair-knots Lives a Lady,
The King (Ceausescu) Bows and Kills (2000)
The Pale Gentleman and the Mocca Cups (2005).
‘My innermost desire is to write
I can live with it.’
Her literary style is precise,
Laconic and matter-of-fact.
Despite her publications,
Ms. Müller was a nobody.
Without her notes on Oskar Pastiors
She couldn’t have penned ‘Atemschaukel.’
It became more than a swing of breath.
She was shadowed, interrogated and persecuted.
Günter Grass said:
‘I’m very satisfied with the Literature Prize
For Herta from Stockholm.’
‘My mantra is always for Philip Roth,’
And sounded like: ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy.’
Germany’s literary pope
‘I plead for Roth and wish to say
Literary critics form the USA commented:
‘We suggest Philip Roth, Thomas Pynchon,
Joyce Carol Oates
Or Bob Dylan.’
The Swedish Academy gave the prize
For the fourteenth time
* * *
(Sketch © 2007 Satis Shroff, Freiburg)
THE AGONY OF WAR (Satis Shroff)
Once upon a time there was a seventeen year old boy
Who lived in the Polish city of Danzig.
He was ordered to join the Waffen-SS,
Hitler’s elite division.
Oh, what an honour for a seventeen year old,
Almost a privilege to join the Waffen-SS.
The boy said, “Wir wurden von früh bis spät
Geschliffen und sollten
Zur Sau gemacht werden.”
A Russian grenade shrapnel brought his role
In the war to an abrupt end.
That was on April 20, 1945.
In the same evening,
He was brought to Meissen,
Where he came to know about his Vaterland’s defeat.
The war was lost long ago.
He realised how an ordinary soldier
Became helpless after being used as a tool in the war,
Following orders that didn’t demand heroism
In the brutal reality of war.
It was a streak of luck,
And his inability to ride a bicycle,
That saved his skin
At the Russian-held village of Niederlausitz.
His comrades rode the bicycle,
And he was obliged to give them fire-support
With a maschine-gun.
His seven comrades and the officer
Were slain by the Russians.
The only survivor was a boy
He abandoned his light maschine-gun,
And left the house of the bicycle-seller,
Through the backyard garden
With its creaky gate.
What were the chances in the days of the Third Reich
For a 17 year old boy named Günter Grass
To understand the world?
The BBC was a feindliche radio,
And Goebbels’ propaganda maschinery
Was in full swing.
There was no time to reflect in those days.
Fürcht und Elend im Dritten Reich,
Wrote Bertold Brecht later.
Why did he wait till he was almost eighty?
Why did he torment his soul all these years?
Why didn’t he tell the bitter truth,
About his tragi-comical role in the war
With the Waffen-SS?
He was a Hitlerjunge,
A young Nazi.
Faithful till the end.
A boy who was seduced by the Waffen-SS.
„Ich habe mich verführen lassen.“
The reality of the war brought
Endless death and suffering.
He felt the fear in his bones,
His eyes were opened at last.
Günter Grass is a figure,
You think you know well.
Yet he’s aloof
And you hardly know him,
This literary titan.
He breathes literature
And political engagement.
In his new book:
Beim Häuten der Zwiebeln
He confides he has lived from page to page,
And from book to book.
Is he a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?
Doctor Faustus and Mephistopheles,
In the same breast?
Grass belongs to us,
For he has spent the time with us.
It was his personal weakness
Not to tell earlier.
He’s a playwright, director and actor
Of his own creativeness,
And tells his own tale.
His characters Oskar and Mahlke weren’t holy Joes.
It was his way of indirectly showing
What went inside him.
Ach, his true confession took time.
It was like peeling an onion with tears,
One layer after the other.
Better late than never.
* * *
On Her Majesty’s Lyrical Service:
Poet Laureate (Satis Shrof)
A person who writes in lyrical form,
Composes verses for occasions,
Good stanzas in favour of kings and queens,
Princes and Princesses,
For the price of 5000 Sterling pounds
And, of course, 650 bottles
To inspire the poet.
And the title of Poet Laureate.
A court poet is a smith of verses,
Not a bass-guitarist
Of the royal band
Based in Buckingham.
Beginners need not apply.
Candidates should be
A professor of English Literature.
The last Poet Laureate penned
Verses in praise of Edward
And his beautiful Sophie,
A hundred years of the Queen Mother
And the latter’s sad demise.
The Queen’s diamond wedding anniversary,
A rap-rhyme for rosy-cheeked Prince William,
When he turned twenty-one.
Yeah! ‘Better stand back
Here’s a age attack.’
He even congratulated Charles and Camilla
On their belated marriage.
The Prince was overwhelmed
When he heard Motion’s
But all verses weren’t,
As we say in Germany:
Friede, Freude, Eierkuchen.
Motion’s ‘Cost of Life’ on Paddington,
‘Causa belli’ emphasised
Elections, money, empire,
Oil and Dad.
Themes and lyrics that bother us,
Day in and day out.
The rulers and battles won are expected
To be praised to Heaven,
Like Master Henry,
Ben Jonson et al have done
In 1668 John Dryden was sacked
Not for his bad verses,
But for changing his confession.
Sir Walter Raleigh and William Morris
Didn’t relinquish their freedom
And said politely: No thank you, Ma’am.
And with it a keg of wine
From the Canary Isles,
That could have been theirs.
Free literary productivity and court-poetry
Are strange bedfellows indeed.
In these times of gender-studies,l
Women’s quotes and emancipation,
It wouldn’t be far-fetched
If Carol Ann Duffy,
A Scottish poetess,
Became the next Poetess Laureate.
What a lass!
She’s openly gay,
Didn’t you say?
Has fire anyway.
What a thankless job:
A royal lyrical whisperer,
Striving for public relations
In poetry prize panels,
In the name of poetry.
A thankless job:
Or leave it.
* * *
GORDON STILL WALKING 2009 (Satis Shroff, Freiburg)
‘I will not walk away,’
Said PM Gordon Brown.
His ministers had walked out on him.
Disgusted with his inner circle
And other fads.
Manchester is United,
Was he walking by a rule?
Mr. Brown ruled with two circles:
His soccer-crazy inner circle
With Ed Balls,
An outer one with grey mice.
He was walking down a lonely road,
When he walked in,
He walked into Blairites.
Gordon was walking into his political savings.
Could he steer Britain’s economy
Out of the big recession?
He walked his legs off,
Pleading to Labourites to stay.
It wasn’t a walk over
For Brown’s pride,
When ministers refuse to walk
Together with him,
After the debacle at the Euro polls.
He racked his brains,
Came up with a belated inquiry
Into the Iraq war,
To save his skin.
In a last bid he reshuffled
His cabinet cards:
Darling, Miliband and Balls
Held their jobs.
Johnson, Jowell, Mandelson,
Cooper, Burham, Ham.
Eh, was it worth to promote Ainsworth?
A soap-opera supper,
Where guests prefer
To sit and walk out at will.
Gordon is certainly walking on air.
It’s become more a walk
On a razor’s edge.
If this silly Labour circus goes on
In Downing No. 10,
He is most likely to walk
On all fours.
The battle is lost,
Er steht auf verlorene Posten.
The rats have sprung overboard.
Councils like Lancashire, Derbyshire,
Have become Tory counties.
Labour lost 250,
Conservatives gained 217 seats.
Captain Brown remains adamant,
And runs his ship.
I’m afraid it’s not Trafalgar.
Perhaps Cap’n Bleigh?
He clutches his crutches
‘I will not walk away.’
Brown has a strategy:
He hopes to limp towards autumn,
Defying the wind against him.
Can he bend it like Beckham?
Captain Brown, still at the helm,
Insists: ‘I will not waver,
Or walk away.’
Britain doesn’t know:
Whether to be awed
And thereby hangs
Drinking Darjeeling Tea in England 2008 (Satis Shroff, Freiburg)
Beware the Ides of March
Manchester will be a milestone
In Gordon Brown’s polit-life.
Your economic ‘competence’
Has become an Achilles heel,
Your weak point.
The people’s party of New Labour
Wants to get rid of you.
These are the rumours
Heard in the trendy streets of London.
Twelve months ago Gordon Brown
Was the Messiah of Brit politics,
After Blair’s disastrous role in the Labour.
Alas, the new Messiah
Lost his face,
Within a short time.
His weakness: decision making.
England is nervous, fidgety,
For Labour fears a possible loss,
Of its 353 Under House seats.
Above the English cabinet
Looms a Damocles sword.
Will Labour watch,
Till a debacle develops?
Labour is in a dilemma.
Hush, help is near.
David Miliband is going vitriolic.
A silly season indeed,
Drinking Darjeeling tea in England.
About the Author:
Satis Shroff is based in Freiburg (poems, fiction, non-fiction) and also writes on ecological, ethno-medical, culture-ethnological themes. He has studied Zoology and Botany in Nepal, Medicine and Social Sciences in Germany and Creative Writing in Freiburg and the United Kingdom. He describes himself as a mediator between western and eastern cultures and sees his future as a writer and poet. Since literature is one of the most important means of cross-cultural learning, he is dedicated to promoting and creating awareness for Creative Writing and transcultural togetherness in his writings, and in preserving an attitude of Miteinander in this world. He lectures in Basle (Switzerland) and in Germany at the Academy for Medical Professions (University Klinikum Freiburg) and the Center for Key Qualifications (University of Freiburg, where he is a Lehrbeauftragter for Creative Writing at the ZfS Uni Freiburg). Satis Shroff was awarded the German Academic Exchange Prize.
His lyrical works have been published in literary poetry sites: Slow Trains, International Zeitschrift, World Poetry Society (WPS), New Writing North, Muses Review, The Megaphone, Pen Himalaya, Interpoetry. He is a member of “Writers of Peace,” poets, essayists, novelists (PEN), World Poetry Society (WPS) and The Asian Writer.
Copyright © 2009, Satis Shroff. You may republish this article online provided you keep the byline, the author's note, and the active hyperlinks.