Ingeborg Bachmann (June 25, 1926 – October 17, 1973) was an Austrian poet who is also known for her novels and work with radio.  Bachmann was a member of the prominent post-war European  literary circle known as Gruppe 47 (if you can name a German post-war writer, chances are they were in this group).   Although not as well know to English-speaking audiences as some of that group’s other luminaries, Bachmann’s poetry is an important study of the roots of language and its value to contemporary society.  The question behind Bachmann’s poetry: how can something as “delicate” and as aesthetic as poetry ever address the inhumanity of war?

Here’s an example of her poetry, as translated by duchess (that’s me):

No Delicacies

Nothing pleases me anymore

Should I
outfit a metaphor
with an almond blossom?
crucify syntax
upon a stage effect?
Who will break one’s skull
over such superfluous things—

I have come to an understanding
with the words
that are there
(for the lowest class)

Hunger
Shame
Tears
and
Darkness.

With the un-purged sob,
with despair
(and I still despair before despair)
over such destitution,
the sick situation, the cost of living—
I will manage.

I don’t neglect writing,
but myself.
The others know
godknows
to help themselves with words.
I am not my assistant.

Should I
take a thought captive,
lead it away to an illuminated sentence-cell?
Eye and ear fed
with mouthfuls of high-quality words?
explore the libido of a vowel?
ascertain the collector’s value of our consonants?

Must I
with a weathered head,
with a writing-cramp in this hand,
under the pressure of three-hundred nights
tear apart the paper,
wipe the floor with these annotated word-operas,
exterminate as such:  I you and he she it

we you all?

(Should do.  The others should.)

My share, it should go missing.

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