A dream: the day’s reflection,
as a pond-trash symbiont
the vague shadow formation.
And on the horizon of consciousness
grows a human being with skin and hair,
but metamorphic, as plants are.
Whether also in kain was an abel?
The anti-me becomes a danger
in the change the being remains blind.
His body gradually turns over.
To small as a ball rudiment
shrinks macabre cerebrum:
ah, illness, timelessly virulent..
The skin hornifies as a bark skirt,
Harshly crackling and rough as grind.
Breaking the spine?
wakes us up of the dream vision shock?
Das wesen bleibt im wandel blind…
Already veins beat out of the body
and grow wide like tree branches.
O grauenzeichen: exaggerate,
that i do not conceal the change,
the fake human! As a torso branch
steilts glied in the offensive wind.
The man’s toe root fits
into the shelter. I have paled?
The being remains blind in change.
What macbeth fear: I fear the forest.
From tangled branches sting stiffly
cartridge knobs, copper, cold:
apocalyptic blossom year..
And becomes anonymous:
a sky above, tinned gray
from smoke, helmes is synonymous,
will be worthless too, is pseudonym
of the being blind in the change.
The building, the tree is advanced
to the patriotic model:
engaged with its roots,
he grasps clarifying visually
the neighbor hardly. And weather lays
itself hotter in the rough wind.
Es wachst der heerwald unentwegt:
o wood from which clubs are beaten…
The being remains blind in change.
contains Andreas Reimann’s first volume of poetry, which was originally intended to be published as early as 1966, but was not published at the time for political reasons. In addition to this first publication after 50 years, this book contains essays from the magazine sense and form gathered together as well as related contributions to the discussion by various authors.
The book is the late rediscovery of the debut of one of the most important German poets of the present and an exciting contemporary document of the literary history of the GDR.
Connewitzer Publishers Bookstore, Announcement
Distinctive: Andreas Reimann
– The poet Andreas Reimann celebrates his 70th birthday. birthday with volume 1 of the Werkausgabe: a first publication, for the cycle had been lost. –
They come late, but also on time. To the 70. Volume 1 of the edition is published on the occasion of the 150th birthday of the poet Andreas Reimann. Contradictions is the title, gathered together are poems from the years 1964 to 1966, joined by "Die neuen Leiden der jungen Lyrik": essays and contributions to discussions, published in 1974/76 in the journal Sense and Form have appeared.
So the very young Reimann has his say, and the fact that the poems and texts nevertheless reveal a portrait of the 70-year-old – that corresponds to his style, his will to form, his way of being recognizable, unmistakably. This also became clear ten years ago, when, on the occasion of the 60th birthday of the. The Trojan Pegasus appeared, 150 selected poems from 50 years. This book is special in other respects, and in more ways than one.
Reimann wrote the texts from the beginning of 1964 to the beginning of 1966, when he was 17 to 19 years old. And when they now appear for the first time – then exactly 50 years after the first advised date of printing. But the poet was prematurely expelled from the Leipzig Literature Institute, the Ministry for State Security opened the "Operative Author Case," he was sentenced to two years in prison for "agitation that endangered the state". After that he could no longer work indoors.
A large part of the first manuscript was lost. It only resurfaced – cynicism of history – with Reimann’s Stasi files. Thus the Contradictions now appear after all – which also Peter Hinke of the Connewitzer Publishers Bookshop and the Andreas Reimann Society e.V.
The literary scholar Peter Geist, connoisseur of the entire work, says:
Poems of comparable intensity, which raise the "cursed scar of cement" as a theme, are sought in vain in the German poetry of this time. These literary-historically significant achievements of the poet’s poetry still await entry into the historical reappraisal.
Homesickness is followed early on by the words, "Become smooth, / you bristle fur of the homesick burr, / for under the gravel follows the city."This poem is a "hymn of driving", about the ambivalence of taking leave. "A farewell must not be so great, / that no farewell is left to us."Verse is an incursion of words into the world, as one can see it less than feel it. Words like "knistersprod" and "erschutterungsbitter".
Journeys are always. Trains. Fort. To travel can never be only something external. In the "Elegy between two trains" it says:
Do not live. Am not dead. Nenn’s waiting.
Hectic morst the typewriter.
Nightly I drink irisgreen
anti-water, tip the hard one
often sto grams, there I sleep well.
But still in morpheus blood
the great crossings rumble.
The deeper one looks into these elegies, the more challengingly they look back. They come from another time in a language that creates itself. Nothing sounds easy. The poet creates a world out of what he finds, he finds what is lost.
The cycle "Contradictions" is followed by poems from before 1964 and poems, the book The wisdom of the flesh which in this volume 1 of the edition of works allow a small work review. Part of it is to study the form. This is what the essay "The New Sufferings of Young Lyricism" from the Sense and form-Issue 2/1974.
The decline of form consciousness is to be noted to such an extent that it seems questionable to still insist on the concept of genre.
The new content, writes Reimann, degenerates through the new form.
Where form does not count, the individual decays.
He comes down hard on the poets of that time, on the poems that were published in anthologies or various issues of the series Poetry Album. The ensuing reactions of colleagues sometimes seem quite scratched.
In any case, the emotionally conscious lyricist Reimann shows himself here as a critic of the highest school: a school of seriousness with an absolute ear for the nuances of truthfulness, gifted with irony. When it comes to everything, he spells out the individual parts. The one on 11. November poet born in Leipzig 70 years ago – he never had to leave in order to stay here, and yet he has always moved far enough away to be here completely.
Janina Fleischer, Leipziger Volkszeitung, 10.11.2016
Another contribution to this book:
Drawing its strength from the consciousness of mortality.
– Conversation with Andreas Reimann in the Leipziger Cafe Grundmann on 28. April 2016. –
Axel Helbig: Dear Andreas Reimann, I want to start at the very beginning. One can hardly imagine a more tragic childhood in the early GDR. The suicide of the mother, the death of the father, which has not been completely solved to this day, the home experiences of the seven-year-old, before your grandmother Thea Reimann-Weide was allowed to take you in two years later. Is this tragedy the starting point of your poetry life?
Andreas ReimannOf course I cannot judge how the matter would have turned out if I had not grown up with this grandmother, who was herself a writer, who translated literature from seven languages, and who had a bookcase full of the works of the classics and literary rarities, which was open to me from the very beginning. But perhaps I would hardly have made use of this offer if my sister and I had not been in a children’s home where we were the only children living among 14- to 18-year-olds who were difficult to raise: There, I had forgotten how to behave in an age-appropriate manner, and later on I was never able to have any real contact with children of the same age. But I had already made the discovery at the age of ten that inner tensions and congestion were best released when articulated in writing. Since then I have been trying incessantly to literally write down my problems in dealing with reality.
Helbig: I see already in your early poems an almost detached existential view of society.
ReimannFrom the beginning, what I have written has been a matter of life and death, as in Shakespeare or Schiller. I had found my mother myself after her suicide. But at that time there was no one who would have even attempted to work through this traumatic experience with me professionally. Perhaps, just ten years after the war, no one had the idea that someone who stood unawares in front of a killed relative needed psychological treatment.
So my sister and I were taken to a very remote youth home, so that our father could not take us to West Berlin. Until his death he tried everything to get his children. Also with the help of a so-called "human trafficker". The man who had planned to take us across the border had been caught and sentenced to seven years in prison. But why did the authorities try so hard to hide us from my father?? My father had worked as a political cartoonist before fleeing to the West. And worked – with reversed signs – in the West as a political cartoonist. The Ministry for State Security [MfS, Stasi] was therefore of the opinion that he had to be lured back to the GDR in order to punish him. That is why there were several attempts to kidnap him. He escaped from the henchmen five times. Later, however, the MfS succeeded in recruiting his West Berlin wife. My father’s death – shortly after a party he was found strangled in his house – remains unsolved to this day. By the way, my grandmother was informed about the death of her son more than a year later. Not in the social welfare office, but in the SED district leadership. As "consolation" one has left to the sixty-four-year-old the children. My "almost detached existential view of society" in the early poems is thus the wishful thinking of an involuntarily precocious child about a human society that he believes exists outside.
Helbig: Life with your grandmother was a sheltered one. A life without children’s books, but with access to the classics, Schiller above all?
ReimannIt was not a "sheltered life", but a wild one in an extraordinarily musen-friendly home environment and an "outside world" that was at least uncomprehending. By the way, I probably would have read Karl May, too, if I had found his works in my bookcase. But Schiller is, if you will, "identical" with him; a "Karl May for educated citizens". And children’s literature – even good children’s literature – I would probably have dismissed as "childish" from my arrogant point of view of knowing everything better, just as I considered almost all the activities of my classmates to be "childish". At that time, I completely despised all normal play – which I nowadays try to make up for in literature. In the heyday of my truancy, I also stayed away from class more than 120 days a year. However, with the agreement of a class teacher who had realized that I did not have to sit around in school all the time when I had something else on my mind anyway. The "indulgence" with me became boundless when I then began to publish at the age of twelve. Look at the "child prodigy"! And it is not even trained! Day after day, I either went to the Museum of Fine Arts or went to the zoological garden. We always had some kind of animals at home: fish, turtles, various birds, hamsters and rabbits: all creatures that multiplied in our house. And my grandmother also offered temporary shelter to mangy cats and a small mongrel dog picked up in the city park. Of course I wanted to become a zoo director one day. In any case, I wanted to study biology.
Helbig: In your writing, the view of nature is important from the very beginning. As a view of creation, of the forces of nature, and as a metaphor for existential pressure.
ReimannThis, too, comes from my grandmother, who still had a very emotional, but no less practical relationship to nature. Since she received only the minimum pension and we children only orphans’ pensions, we went mushrooming very often and learned to distinguish between parasol mushroom and panther mushroom. We gathered berries and often ate tasty wild garlic and nettle soups. Actually, we had to appropriate nature in a very mundane sense. Because we needed something to eat. That I was also able to develop an eye for the beauties and changes of nature, I also owe to the youthful enthusiasm of my grandmother. However, despite our harvest of forest fruits, we would hardly have been able to make ends meet if we had not, by chance, lived in a block of flats in which, apart from us, only Soviet officers lived with their families. When they realized that we had very little to eat, they regularly left their provisions on our doorstep – canned fish, butter, groats and, on their holidays, the appropriate bottle of vodka for my grandmother. The Germans never thought of giving us anything, even when they saw that we children were often left without breakfast bread during school breaks.
Helbig: The zoo director was one fantasy, the other was to become a poet. You were already publishing as a twelve-year-old.
ReimannI thought to myself, you do the zoo director for fun and the writing for earning money. At that time, poems, short stories or serialized novels were printed almost every day in the various feature sections of the daily and weekly newspapers. When I found out that as an author you get 4 marks for a line of poetry, I got the idea that you can make a good living from something like poetry. At that time z.B. the New Germany, Central organ of the Central Committee of the SED, a supplement called The educated nation, which even got along without party comments to the greatest possible extent. On these pages I had begun to publish regularly. The cultural editors, however, did not know how old I was. It was only when some readers got angry by letter about my poem "Discussion" and I was completely beaten up in the manner of a formalism debate because of alleged incomprehensibility, that it came to light that the author was only 15 years old when producing the nuisance. Despite public encouragement from Eva Strittmatter, I was devastated, knowing that after this discussion no daily newspaper in the GDR would print another poem of mine. This did not have to be ordered "from above" at all. Something like this happens in a subject state in a kind of self-running process. However: I should have awakened earlier from my dream of being able to live from poems. Since I had begun an apprenticeship as a typesetter, my hitherto rather harmonious image of the working world had completely collapsed. Now that I was confronted with the real life of the working population on a daily basis, it was suddenly angry, sad, bitter verses about the found social conditions that forced themselves onto my paper. Starting in 1964, I wrote a cycle of poems with the significant title "Contradictions", which I knew would not be published in the GDR for the foreseeable future. In this seemingly perplexed situation, Georg Maurer invited me in May 1965 to take part in a workshop on Leipzig Literature Institute to study.
Helbig: How did you experience Georg Maurer?
ReimannBy sight I had known the poet Maurer for a long time, and I also knew that he had worked together with my father at the Leipzig newspaper I had been working, but I did not dare to approach the tall man. At the Institute, Maurer was an absolutely trustworthy father figure for me. And he was obviously ready to take on this role as well. Maybe not only because of my "talent", but also because I was by far the youngest student at the institute. Most of my fellow students – mostly writing workers, all comrades with an ideologically hardened world view – were about ten years older than me. For me, it was stimulating and exciting at the Institute as long as Helga M. Nowak and Kurt Bartsch were still there and occasionally a few colorful artist birds from the FRG came fluttering by. I was also good friends with a Lithuanian woman. A very interesting personality, who later turned out to be a very zealous collaborator of the MfS. In this small group, one could talk confidentially about personal matters; we openly blasphemed, even about the lecturers, yes, even about the dear fatherland with its bigwigs and informers. We knew, of course, that the Institute was an island. Apart from Maurer, from whom one could learn to measure one’s own work in all humility against the creations of world literature and still dare to work on the next verse, there was no other important teacher for me at the Institute. However, since Maurer hardly told anything about verse theory, one had to acquire one’s craft skills autodidactically, unless one was simply of the opinion: "If Maurer doesn’t tell anything about it, then…". Also because of this kind of frugality some students of the great teacher have remained rather tiny. Conversely, Helga M. Novak and I, after we had read Robert Havemann’s forbidden book Dialectics without dogma The students of the institute were expected to pay homage to the new cultural policy and to turn away from the critics who had infiltrated the institute, which lecturer could have served us even better Marxism-Leninism. It was a whirlwind few months, during which we loved and wrote poetry and smoked and drank and believed in a better world, and preferably all at the same time. And everywhere "poems on the pillars"! At that time, there was the so-called "poetry wave" organized by the Free German Youth [FDJ]. These were collective readings of several poetry writers, to which literally masses of listeners came. It was an enormous sense of achievement for the writers to be able to perform in Leipzig in front of 500 people in the large hall of the Friendship Clubhouse which today has long since become a ballroom again. Most of the listeners, however, did not come to the events out of love for poetry, but because they believed that a sharp criticism of the regime was hidden in the texts they did not understand. The fools from the MfS, however, suspected the same thing. Only the authors believed that their awkwardly written poems would attract the audience in droves.
Helbig: At the end of that year 1965 there was the infamous 11. Plenum of the Central Committee of the SED, which drastically changed the situation in the cultural scene.
Reimann: On the 11. Plenum, the latest feature films of DEFA were attacked as a matter of priority. Almost a whole year’s production was banned. But it was also about rebellious literati. Against Wolf Biermann, who was banned from performing, also against Gunter Kunert and Rainer Kirsch and in general. Werner Braunig, lecturer at the Institute and formerly the inventor of the naive call "Grab the pen, buddy!"The author, who was still working on a work from which a chapter had become known, publicly took the precaution of lambasting him. The students of the Institute were expected to pay homage to the new cultural policy and to turn their backs on those criticized. I was friends with Braunig, I was friends with Biermann and Havemann at that time. There was no reason for me to distance myself from them.
Helbig: In March 1966, you were de-registered from the Literary Institute, on the grounds that "a talent wears itself out subjectively when it tries to rise above the battlements of the party". At the same time the file of an "Operative Vorgangs" was opened at the MfS (OV "Author"). Also in 1966, some of the poems in the volume you had been preparing since 1964 were Contradictions appeared as "unauthorized" preprints in the West [in the journals Alternative and Pumpkinseed and in the anthologies Poetry in our time, ed. by Wolfgang Weyrauch as well as Prospects. Young lyricists of the German-speaking world, ed. by Peter Hamm] But as early as 1965, you had initially considered writing the volume Contradictions the publisher Klaus Wagenbach to offer in West Berlin. How did you come up with this idea? What were your connections to Wagenbach?? Georg Maurer and Franz Fuhmann had, as you said elsewhere, advised against a Western publication. Did one really talk so openly about these things?
Reimann: At the institute yes. Even the first days after the 11. Plenum. Maurer judged the works exclusively according to artistic criteria. He avoided or felt unable to comment on the political message of texts. My Contradictions project had been rejected by the Aufbau-Verlag already rejected, even before the preprints appeared. Considering a West publication, I immediately thought of Wagenbach, since with Hermlin and Bobrowski, he had local authors in his Series of quarters had misplaced. The design of these volumes was pleasantly reminiscent of Kurt Wolff’s series The Last Day, which was familiar to me from the bookcase at home. I told Maurer and Fuhmann at that time: "If the collection doesn’t appear here, then I’ll do the volume at Wagenbach." Biermann also had a volume in this quarto series. In those years I went to Berlin twice a month to record his new songs and then to make them known in Leipzig. So I hoped that Biermann would in turn recommend my manuscript to the publisher. While leafing through the MfS files, by the way, I came across the amusing note that "Reimann now publishes his poems in the West under the name Klaus Wagenbach". Well. I also came across recordings of conversations that took place in my apartment at the time. The hasty transcriber was obviously not comfortable with the fact that two interlocutors occasionally keep silent with each other by mutual agreement. In such situations, he immediately imagined that the two gays were now together again… And he promptly invented the corresponding coitus dialogues, which, despite their self-disclosing obscenity, are sometimes really delicious in their speechlessness and naivete.
Helbig: In November 1966 you were drafted into military service in the NVA and were released in March 1967 after a suicide attempt.
ReimannI had obtained poison from a pharmacist, for the "emergency". Because you never knew what situations you would be exposed to in the military. I had actually swallowed the white powder out of fear of a maneuver mission announced for the next morning, and was then admitted to the detention hospital with life-threatening cramps. For a few days the doctors didn’t know if they would get me through. But during an interrogation shortly after my arrest, the aforementioned pharmacist testified that, anticipating that I would make use of this remedy at the first bad opportunity, he had handed me a "poison bottle" at the time, the original contents of which he had exchanged for a few powdered fission tablets. So my "poisoning" turned out to be pure auto-suggestion! Therefore also no poison could be proven. In my case, the puzzling doctors finally diagnosed a nervous breakdown. And so I not only escaped imprisonment in the military prison in Schwedt, where usually those army members ended up who tried to avoid the praiseworthy and honorable military service in the NVA: I even escaped the army. And I threw myself back into work and intoxication, messed around with re-poetry, made publisher’s appraisals, tried several times to live out my ideas of partnership. And became increasingly enthusiastic about the designs of the "Prague Spring" reformers. At that time I wrote:
Prague silhouette a lot-
This view! And already
poke out of my fur
the lice of the fatherland.
The crushing of this effort by force of arms appalled and outraged me, and this desperate indignation was publicly vented for months.
Helbig: Were your poems and drawings also the basis for your arrest in 1968 and your conviction after one and a half years in pre-trial detention for "incitement to hatred of the state"??
ReimannDuring the house searches and the later arrest by the MfS several manuscripts, u.a. also of my band Contradictions have been seized. The Stasi had also received the already existing negative expert opinions on this tape. I have also found a separate document in which pages of testimonies to some of my poems are listed. But while in a "situation report" of the main department XX of the MfS I was pompously called an "internationally known poet", in the trial I was by no means treated as a writer. Then the prosecutor characterized me, unchallenged, as a "typesetter who posed as a writer.". Officially I was sentenced because of verbal "inflammatory statements", not because of my poems. A painful humiliation. The indictment of a writer would probably have led to a few protests, which the Stasi wanted to avoid. Or not. At least it would have reminded again of my mere existence, which after one and a half years of detention behind prison walls had perhaps already slipped out of the minds of many of my acquaintances. I was accused in court above all of my desperately angry statements against the invasion of the Warsaw Pact troops in Prague. I had openly called the invasion a crime. But all the findings, hoarded in the volumes of the "OV Autor" and collected over the years with the fussy zeal of an informer, remained unmentioned in the trial. This must have annoyed some of my interrogators, who had to deal with my father’s case fifteen years earlier in the same place. And one of them, who for tactical reasons had also found out about my grandfather Hans Reimann and thus his work as a cabaret artist, asked me irritably one day whether "the agitation in (my) family was perhaps hereditary"? I would have answered this question with a resounding "Yes"!"which would have been more ambiguous than the questioner suspected: namely, Hans Reimann had once been sentenced to prison for "lèse majeste". It was namely my father under the Nazis a few weeks in the same prison as me. He had been locked up in "aggravated detention" for "defeatist remarks". And I was for the interrogator now apparently the third loudmouth in a row within this family. A "writing criminal", as he called me, who, however, would have to endure a bit longer in jail than his ancestors. But since they did not want to pillory my literary crimes – the texts would have had to be made public – the MfS tried to interpret my drawings as "incitement". "These are representations of dream motifs, the whole art movement is called surrealism."I tried to persuade the interrogators. "A psychiatrist," I said, "could certainly confirm my assertion."I found myself again in the Waldheim Psychiatric Hospital. For a quarter to observe. However, I, the alcoholic, was also helped in Waldheim to cope with the still confusing withdrawal problems – and for the first time here in Waldheim. In addition, I met quite a few comrades in the prison who had long since ceased to be on the lowest rung of the party hierarchy, but who had suddenly expressed gradual reservations about the political course. They had ended up in the "loony bin" because their uncomprehending but helpful comrades-in-arms had come to the conclusion, because of their punishable deviation "from the line": "The poorest people have probably got tumors in their heads from working so hard!"Why didn’t I go crazy during the three quarters of a year I had to spend in solitary confinement as a remand prisoner?? As a "writing criminal", I was given neither paper nor pens to write anything down, as a matter of course. An ordeal for one for whom writing is already part of the metabolism. But fortunately I could rejoice with Heine:
The counterband that travels with me,
I have stuck in my head.
At that time I knew about 300 poems of other poets by heart. It was a very good way to pass the time. For example, to put together a Goethe or Holderlin or Benn program, a Brecht or Wedekind song sequence, as you like. And you could at least sing Eisler and Kurt Weill songs moderately loud and uncritically. It was much more pleasant to be alone with these numerous verses than to have to share an eight-square-meter cell with another prisoner, this room painted diarrhea green, in which the toilet bowl stinks next to the door and whose window hatch is walled up with glass bricks.
Helbig: After the conviction you were in the Cottbus penitentiary. Were you housed there together with criminal prisoners??
ReimannNo, in Cottbus there were only political prisoners at that time. They work for Pentacon [cameras] and for Scharfenstein [refrigeration equipment], and one had to slave away in order to meet the given standards. It depended on it, how much money one had to spend for the purchase of z.B. cigarettes and toiletries were available. Also, a working day in Cottbus was ten hours long. Nevertheless, it is frivolous to call prison work "forced labor": without work, one would have become aggressive and ultimately insane in the penal system.
Helbig: The prison sentence was initially tantamount to a ban on publication?
Reimann: GDR-logically determined. For example, for the 1969 spring fair, my volume Contradictions in a (with my consent!) changed beyond recognition and weakened under the dusty title "Strabenkreuzung" appear. This did not happen after my arrest. And today I am glad that this compilation has never been published. But after prison I would certainly have agreed to be present again at least with such a plucked collection. Of course, no one wanted to talk to the leper anymore. But the volume I originally conceived Contradictions, supplemented by further texts, will finally be published this year as the first volume of my work edition in the Connewitzer publishing house bookshop Leipzig appear. Exactly half a century after the originally planned publication date. And in time for my seventieth birthday.
Helbig: After your release from prison, you were offered a job at the Leipzig People’s Newspaper to work.
ReimannI had refused on the grounds: "I have just spent two years in prison because of your phrases, I will not help to spread them now."I then started working in a small company in Leipzig as a transport worker and later rinsed, filled and labeled beer bottles in a brewery. There I had it, which I had wanted after all: the contact with the people for whom I thought I was writing, the "leading class" according to propaganda. I have also worked as a payroll clerk in a company for children’s clothing, an all-women’s company. And I, separated from the production rooms only by a partition wall that was put up later, was "allowed" to listen to what the seamstresses had to say to each other from morning to night: they surpassed a regulars’ table of drunken men in drastic language and derogatory sexual fantasies to such an extent that I would earn myself the indignant reproach of "misogynistic inventions" with their even vaguely implied reproduction.
Helbig: At the time of your exmatriculation, Max Walter Schulz had been the director of the Leipzig Literature Institute. It was he who had to provide the justifications. Later on, he was sorry, or how is the later promotion by him to be understood??
ReimannHe had probably thought that I would merely be "sent into production" on the basis of his opinion. This was, after all, the "punishment" for recalcitrant intellectuals most often applied in his academic sphere of perception at that time. Surely he could not have imagined that such an assessment could still be used at the end of the sixties to put the person concerned in prison. Even after my conviction, he continued to cling to the idea that "R. I had "sacrificed" his talent to his defiance, his "intransigence" At the end of 1972, when he once again accused me of "subjective talent wear," I sent him my latest poems, asking if he called that "subjective talent wear. From then on, he tried to bring me back into the conversation as a poet. A few years earlier, Stephan Hermlin had presented young poets at the Akademie der Kunste in Berlin, u.a. also Wolf Biermann, who had only become known through it. Now, at the beginning of 1973, Max Walter Schulz was to present a young lyricist at a similar academy conference. Thus it came to "my" academy reading. This was quite important for an author in the GDR, since it was a signal to the outside world, to the publishers and journals. Therefore, the Stasi had tried intensively to dissuade Max Walter Schulz from his plans. But he did not let himself be distracted. During the reading he sat pale as an immature cheese on his armchair next to me. Later, I was able to learn from the files that the Leipzig Stasi had sent a six-man "task force" to Berlin.
Max Walter Schulz had then sent my manuscript "The Wisdom of the Flesh" to Gerhard Wolf Mitteldeutscher Verlag Halle given. These two also lobbied the State Security, which wanted to prevent the book from being printed. These people were probably less interested in the poems than in the person of the author, who they wanted to make an un-person, probably mainly because he had "annoyed" them. The volume was then published in 1975. Incidentally, in a total of three editions. One may ask older colleagues and poetry readers what effect the verses had on them at that time. However, the book had not been officially acknowledged by literary scholars. Not until today. His success was, of course, partly based on the curiosity of the countless authors who since 1970 have been operating under the collective term "poetry movement". I had published in the journal Sense and Form I had published a polemical essay under the title "Die neuen Leiden der jungen Lyrik" ("The New Sufferings of Young Poetry"), in which I mainly complained about the lack of form-consciousness of pubescent authors and thus provoked a long-lasting discussion among readers. After a year, when the editors had had enough, they gave me the opportunity to react to the printed letters to the editor in a journalistic way. At Contradictions-Volume of my work edition will contain also this quite current material.
Helbig: Neither the essay nor the volume The wisdom of the flesh were thus real door openers. publishing in magazines and newspapers was still not. What did you live on?
ReimannThe attempt to expatriate me from the history of literature seemed to be successful, but it was not. So I was not forced to kowtow to the mighty either. I sometimes earned something with re-poetry – at Reclam, People and World, at Eulenspiegelverlag. There was something like solidarity among the lecturers. They said: They tried to break him down – we have to take care of him. They let them get away with it, because only a few readers take note of the names of the re-poets anyway. In the course of the years I was allowed to work for Reclam Rimbaud and some surrealists, and I sometimes earned some money with White row from People and world Sabolotzki and Dratsch translated. My biggest commission was a volume Poems from Mocambique, which I received from the Reclam publishing house had received. It was agreed that I should recite the verses alone with the support of the Mozambican editor Raul Bernardo Peres da Silva. After FRELIMO [the communist brother party of the SED] criticized the text selection, da Silva was booted out, a new editor was appointed, and my further work was taken over by a few other re-poets.
I did not have my own apartment at that time. After prison, I first spent a year and a half scrounging from the very good-natured mother of a friend of mine. After that, I had nested with various friends one after the other, and their refrigerators were also open to me. Yes, I shamelessly admit that all my life I have not been able to live on "pure poetry" alone, but I hope that this is not the only way to rank among the serious German poets. – Regarding my second book of poems, which contained texts from the years 1973-1976 and was published three years after the completion of the manuscript, at this point only the note that its three editions again went unnoticed by the feuilleton writers, but were quickly out of print. And when it became clear that my newer poems would no longer be published, and the number of listeners at my readings who took their notes in a ridiculously secretive manner had visibly increased, I began to concentrate on my work with chanson interpreters.
Helbig: How can one imagine the chanson scene in the GDR, for which you then wrote more and more texts?? Was this a self-sufficient scene, which could better escape the regimentation of the state?
Reimann: There were the official "Days of Chanson" in Frankfurt on the Oder, under the direction of Gisela Steineckert. In Frankfurt was hardly regulated. The circus always reminded me a little of the Institute of Literature with its multitude of books banned "outside" in the library and the clear indications that certain unorthodox contributions to the discussion were not to be made public within the teaching institution. After the stimulating days in Frankfurt/Oder, it was by no means certain that the performers – including the prize winners of the Singers’ War – would have any opportunities to perform outside the festival. It leads too far to go into your question in more detail here. Only this much: With my chanson texts I could finally earn enough money for my living. Enough money for sixty cigarettes and a few liters of alcoholic beverages every day. I only managed to sell so many chanson texts to the most diverse interpreters because they all publicly claimed to be "songwriters"; it sounded as if they had written their proclamations themselves. – There were also the just tolerated "days of chanson in the monastery of Michaelstein". There met all those who for various, not in every case political reasons, could not get a professional card. Or those who had been deprived of the "cardboard". At this rather lively event, the angriest of the bards were virtually among themselves. There are very denunciatory informer reports about it. For tactical reasons the "Zusammenrottung" was not forbidden nevertheless. And, as I said, the bards were among themselves anyway.
Helbig: You became famous with the lyrics for the very famous rock group Lift. Especially the one on the Amiga record Mirror image contained "love song ["Will an Deinen Leib mich fugen"] was known to everyone in the GDR. Was this text originally written as a love poem and only later set to music??
ReimannI did not "become famous" with it, because as with the chansons or the re-poems in such cases nobody asks for the word-giver. "Famous" I was in GDR times in suggestively oppositional circles after the appearance of my first book of poems. In the second there is an ode about it, which is called: "The early fame". – But back to "Will an deinen Leib mich fugen": Or also the elevator title "Der Frieden" (The Peace). Both are originally "reading" poems, but their strophic, clear structure lends itself to setting to music. Intentionally writing a song text means first of all making yourself clear: A song is bound to the temporal span of its performance. And the listener is not given any other time to understand the content of the song. It is almost impossible, at least in concert, to rewind a singer, but it is reasonable to expect a person to read a poem again, to have to read it again, if he did not quite understand it the first time. Admittedly, there are many poems that resist being set to music. Most decent rock lyrics, on the other hand, are linguistic shambles detached from the music. I myself have also written such texts for Lift – "Grobe Landschaft" for example. Or "Sinbad", both illegible Things! In general, I have little talent for creating lyrics based on given music.
Helbig: The turnaround was a caesura in every respect. A publication of your texts was possible again.
Reimann: Only in 1995 with the volume Sonettarium [Connewitzer Verlagsbuchhandlung Leipzig] collected poems of mine appeared again. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, I was in no particular hurry to do this, because the long ban on publication had made me accustomed to writing texts that I was convinced would last for a long time. Knowing that it would not be printed too soon, I had given up the habit of writing something dependent on the spirit of the times. I have been forced to write for eternity. [laughs]
I have also kept both, the composure, as far as the release date of new publications is concerned, and the effort to help the language get over my time. Thus my last larger volume of poetry Graves and over [Connewitzer Verlagsbuchhandlung Leipzig) already appeared six years ago now. And the most recent collection with the title green winter (Literary Dresden e.V., 2015) is laid out in such a way that it could probably be expanded even in ten years’ time without painful ruptures.
Helbig: In your poem "Brave New World" from 1992 it says: "Not I am, my two countries are homeless." You had always refused the offer to leave the GDR.
ReimannI did not leave the GDR because I was sure that I would be needed in the little country that was endangered from within. Well, I could have taken my life partner with me. But the readers who expected an attitude on the spot? And I stayed because, after talking to people from the FRG, I was completely sure: I would go from one absurdity to another. As happened then. As long as the two points of the compass do not confess to a common history, but permanently reproach each other with their partial past, they have, I say it so pathetically, not yet found the sense of their reunion. I myself am better off there, because if anything at all, language is my home. And this language was always indivisible for me. Of course I do not mean the contemporary language. This statement is about the classically clear language of the best German-language poets since Walther von der Vogelweide. So also around present language.
Helbig: In response to the claim that the GDR poets used a special "slave language," you once replied: "The term slave language refers to a method to which we had become so accustomed that today it is difficult for us to speak plainly."A cryptic sentence that needs explanation for those born later.
Reimann: The sentence is not "cryptic", but inaccurate. I wanted to explain: Over decades, many GDR poets and song lyricists had developed a subtle method of camouflaging their opinions with ripped-off metaphors. Often they (we!) z.B. hidden behind mythology, to remain unassailable. Admittedly, to whom this walking on the line between cunning and cowardice is alien, he may interpret what is incomprehensible to him as "slave language". But it was a language that the censors understood perfectly well. It did not, however, offer them any concrete points of attack. Even if the prosecutor was boiling, he couldn’t hit anyone. An accusation against Prometheus might have been difficult to make. Because if one formulates Goethean to want to accept no more gods, this is unassailable, even if everyone knows that the central committee is meant.
Helbig: Does the second part of the quoted sentence allude to the fact that poets first had to find a new language for themselves after the fall of the Wall??
ReimannFirst of all, one had to realize that one was dealing with different social conditions. However, the sudden freedom did not go down well with some GDR literati, because as soon as one is allowed to say (almost) anything, it becomes clear whether one has anything to say at all. Under conditions of freedom of speech, the metaphor no longer needs to be used to disguise the actual statement. It regains its actual function: To make the essence of the described subject more clearly recognizable. But I don’t know if any poet, if he was a poet, had to find a new language. If in the everyday life nevertheless another "internal communication difficulty" disturbs lastingly. The fact that at a mature age one must often first question the meaning of individual, previously quite familiar vocabulary in the language use of the interlocutor. In everyday life, therefore, two German languages supposedly exist side by side, although people use the same words. There it is comforting to know: There is, as already indicated, also a third language, the language of the poets. Of course, they didn’t invent it themselves either. It comes from a very long tradition and draws its unifying power from its accuracy. Thus, in these times of language corruption by anglicisms, stupid advertising slogans, SMS formulations, slippery politician idiom and people’s verbal fecal orgies on the net, poetry has more than ever the task of preserving language.
Helbig: The chanson scene, for which you had written lyrics, was practically non-existent after the fall of the Wall. The translation orders from GDR publishers also no longer existed. They had then first written for newspapers.
Reimann: To me was a former journalist who Leipzig People’s Newspaper who, in 1990, had been given the chance by a West German newspaper publisher to do a weekly newspaper, the Leipzig Sunday Courier. The newspaper existed for about two years. This journalist had revealed to me in the first conversation that he had been an IM [informal collaborator of the Stasi]. At first I swallowed, but then I decided to cooperate. Because if someone had the courage to say that even before all the Stasi stories had been uncovered, then he must have been honestly trying to make a new start. On the other hand, not one of those who spied on me has come to this day to say at least a modest "I’m sorry"!" to murmur.
I have also continued to write song lyrics. Hubertus Schmidt, Jens-Uwe Gunther, Walter Thomas Heyn and others had regained their footing after reunification. Together with the composer Walter Thomas Heyn – who had already set my choral texts to music for the Leipzig Peace Prayers in 1984 – I performed a cantata, a public commission. With the same composer I had a Singspiel The Plunderhund in the country Wunderbunt which had been premiered in the last minute before the fall of the Wall. Two days later it was thematically no longer up to date. Briefly: essentially I lived also in the FRG from the income of my life companion Dieter Ramke, who crooked himself as a waiter.
Helbig: Asked about your poems, you once said: "I’m not someone who makes poems, poems have to happen."
ReimannThere are certainly many authors who are capable of writing poetry on demand. But when we introduce ourselves to people as poets, they immediately talk about imposture, because you can’t rhyme a few verses together on the spot. I no longer even try to wrest verses from myself. Because what’s wrong with waiting for the poem to happen to me, that is, for the emotional congestion to dissolve into language as if by itself?? No, at the beginning of the writing process I don’t want to know how the poem will turn out. Where then should the fun of producing remain for me?? I only know that after the work I will have learned something new about myself. Of course, the poem is seldom already finished when it comes to life naked. In my head there are usually several versions, transformations, linguistic fine works. Earlier, when one could still afford financially the all-day stay in the pub, I wrote down these different versions in public and was considered diligent. Now that I’m just exhaustedly putting the last version down on paper in front of everyone, people in my regular cafe whisper: "He’s already gotten a bit lazy."
Helbig: Peter Geist is the literary scholar who has most meritoriously and effectively dealt with your work. He says: Reimann is a dialectician, speaks of Brecht’s dialectical linguistic wit, which he finds in you, names the choice of large objects, the unconditional will to form and the high tone as trademarks of your poetry.
ReimannThis dialectic linguistic wit does not necessarily come only from Brecht. It probably has more to do with Heinrich Heine. He is today only somewhat out of the field of vision. Is perhaps too topical for educators of various stripes. And the "great objects", i.e. love and war and peace: in the meantime one dwells too centrally all over the world to be able to cheat one’s way around them. These objects in turn demand the high tone. Which in turn results u.a. from the clearly contoured form.
Helbig: For others you were the new Rimbaud.
Reimann: Well, like Rimbaud, I was very young when I got into literature. Like Rimbaud, I was not one to let anyone tell me what to do. And I probably brought a new tone to GDR poetry. But at that time, when I was compared to one of the inimitable ones, almost nobody in the GDR knew the name of Rimbaud. Perhaps a poetry reader had once come across the poet’s "Das trunkene Schiff," of which there were countless variations on the poem. In gay circles, too, many a candle was lit for him – for the "guy", not for the poet, but that did not concern me at the time. And that I would someday get the offer to transcribe a few Rimbaud poems was also not yet foreseeable. Years later I was offered Reclam-Verlag this very possibility. And so I have also dared to tackle the so-called "First Stupra Poem" ["Les anciens animaux saillissaient…" / "The animals once…"; from "Les Stupra", 1875], which until then had not yet been re-poetted in the German-speaking world. A sonnet.
Helbig: The sonnet is a form that suits you very well. Even when the sonnet was demonized, you held on to this form.
ReimannI discovered the form of the sonnet for myself early on. About 1970. When I was looking for a way to get a handle on the overflowing baroque picture abundance. My Collection The sonnetarium contains about 70 texts from 25 years and appeared in 1995. The sonnet with its regular structure forces the author to think disciplined and to write disciplined. It is a pleasure for me to sum up my concern in a fixed number of verses. It is exciting to playfully try out how much of the present can be transported in the time-honored form. Goethe, however, rejected the sonnet because he feared that he would have to "glue too much in the process".
Helbig: Your sonnets just do not seem "glued", they seem light. Her sonnets also often do not adhere to the usual 4 : 4 : 3 : 3 -form, sometimes it is an undivided 14-liner, which is recognized as a sonnet only on second reading.
ReimannI nevertheless adhere quite strictly to the guidelines of verse theory: the texts I call "sonnets" consist in principle of 14 rhymed so-called blank verses. With dialectical wit, their content is processed according to the rule of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. And if it looks "light" to me, that’s probably where it comes from: I have practiced dancing long enough. Which, of course, also does not succeed when one has two left feet. But, of course, I do not want my intensive efforts for the strict (or should I rather say: recognizable as such?) form reduced to the sonnet. For forty years now I have been publishing – Holderlin sends his regards! – in my books z.B. recreations of ancient odes stanzas. But if I don’t have the corresponding metrical signs printed over the poems sometime like Mr. Klopstock did in those days, not even a classical philologist will notice that anymore! I have written poems in Homeric hexameters and distichs, used the ritornello as a means of transport for my content, etc. This is craft, and the reader does not necessarily need to know about it. Perhaps one hears music rather worse, if one reads the score in the concert. The only thing that matters is that the poet finds his own tone. But as soon as his poems begin to become unmistakable, Germanists and reviewers in this country get into a frenzy. Out of joy? No. Instead, confused, they immediately look for which "famous" author the new one has borrowed the sound from.
Helbig: In the early Buchenwald poem, published in 1966 in the volume mentioned earlier Views, the Reimann tone is already contained unmistakably. It is the poem of an 18-year-old, which already leaves aside all cliches of the GDR and starts completely new.
ReimannI started reading an incredible amount of poetry before puberty. Completely confused. So to speak Holderlin against Erich Weinert, the Dawn of mankind and Platen’s tinkered verses. This conglomerate of thoughts, linguistic and intellectual variety and beauty became my yardstick for everything that moved outside of it. My standard for a lasting malignant reality. From which I retreated so far behind verse that after quite a short time I had an almost wholesome, i.e. literarily embellished, image of "outside". Reality could not be prevented for long from kicking me as it did in the old days. But out of the halay endured contradiction between chaos-ordering poetry and destructive, yet at the same time not infrequently gratifying, reality, some people develop their own style. If you are lucky.
Helbig: Peter Geist also says: "Reimann focuses on awakening, movement, resistance to solidification." This can be said about your poetry, but also about your life?