Bringing Blood to Trakl's Ghost

By Gustafson, Mark | The Antioch Review, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Bringing Blood to Trakl's Ghost


Gustafson, Mark, The Antioch Review


"We were like Lewis and Clark, tracing out the delicate strange dark places inside Trakl, all alone without anything from the past to guide us." So James Wright wrote to Robert Bly when, after a two-year process, Twenty Poems of Georg Trakl, the first book of Bly's Sixties Press, was in the final stages before publication. Wright added: "I think that our translation has profited a great deal by our doing it slowly.... His poems are there, and our translations are like encampments from which we make excursions in among the trees and sudden clearings, and make notes while we interview those odd beautiful little animals in there. So the delay was a ripening."

The book appeared in late 1961, with a small scene from Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights on the jacket. Poet and editor John Logan, who would soon try his own hand at translating Trakl, offered Bly his interpretation of the picture: "It is such a beautiful detail. The boy has learned how to hold the owl without hanging on to him and the owl has learned how to love the boy and transmit to him his power without frightening him.... It has a curious rapport with the Trakl poems." That transmission of power--how it worked for Bly and Wright especially, by way of their fresh translations and on into their Trakl-saturated poems, and the legacy of the kinship they felt with him and with each other--is a pivotal event in twentieth-century American poetry. They had not stuffed the owl, but revivified it; the art was thaumaturgy, not taxidermy. Thereby they made Trakl an essential figure for English-language poets to reckon with. Since then, in a steady stream of English translations and poetic nods, Trakl has continued to enjoy an active afterlife.

                                    * 

In Ventrakl (2010), Christian Hawkey fuses his own work to Trakl's, calling it a collaboration, so that questions of agency hardly apply. He uses photographs, and deploys various modes of composition to communicate with or to channel his predecessor. It amounts to what one critic (in another context) has called "apocryphal" translation, to the creation of a new version of Trakl, as Hawkey, cleverly negotiating their cultural differences, imagines and thereby reanimates a ghost. To write this off--as rogue taxidermy, mere ventriloquism, another intertextual contrivance, or transgression against some hallowed poetic principle--would be a mistake. Hawkey is utterly sincere, and he has the precedent of Jack Spicer's prodigious After Lorca (1957). In the vast gray area between conceptual and more conventional poetry, he plays with translation and pastiche while he seeks common ground. All poetry, in the end, is built on artifice; likewise, all translations are apocryphal to some degree. Ventrakl is a tribute by another poet in thrall to the evergreen force of Trakl's vision.

In 1958 Bly started his little magazine The Fifties (later The Sixties and The Seventies). Through it and its sibling small press, hunkered down on a farm in western Minnesota, he launched a sharp attack on the reigning North American literary aesthetic, in part by going beyond the bounds English-language poetry. A couple of generations earlier, Ezra Pound's insistence on translation had been a vital component of the Modernist program. Since then, American poetry had been de-radicalized and was largely stuck in the mire of New Criticism, rhyme, iambic pentameter, and a willful isolationism. The poetic establishment valued rational, linear processes. In contrast, Bly touted an openness to and trust in the hidden currents of imagination and intuition springing from the unconscious mind.

Thus, all for the sake of "the new poetry" and "the new imagination," Bly restored translation to a place of central concern. He found representatives of a still prevalent international modernism, poets from other lands, to serve as exemplars and transmitters through whom American poets might receive subconscious, pre-rational material that had been lost or was as yet untapped in the U. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Bringing Blood to Trakl's Ghost
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.