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Georg Trakl: Dreamsongs

I am a shadow far from darkening villages.

I drank the silence of God

Out of the stream in the trees.

—from De Profundis

Happy National Poetry Month Everyone!

To mark the occasion, I invite you to discover (or rediscover) the poems of Georg Trakl, that shooting star of Austrian expressionism, who like a true poet, burned out at the age of 27. Some say he was an incarnation of Arthur Rimbaud. 

His poems have a magnificent silence in them. It is very rare that he himself talks—for the most part he allows the images to speak for him. Most of the images, anyway, are images of silent things.  They follow one another in a way that is somehow stately. And the images have a mysterious connection with each other. The rhythm is slow and heavy, like the mood of someone in a dream.

Here you will find the collection of poems:

If there is a particular poem that resonates with you, please come and read it to us. Or if you can think of works of other poets in this vein, please bring those too.

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  • Larry B.

    I mentioned that Gertrude Stein used color to express emotional states and symbolic meaning. I think it is rather facile to pick a single Stein poem at random to see if this is true, when she was not so dedicated to using color in her writing as Trakl was. Here are some phrases showing some of Stein's use of color, from "Objects":

    "...a single hurt color..."

    " weakens an hour."

    "Light blue and the same red with purple makes a change."

    "Out of kindness comes redness..."

    "Dirty is yellow."

    "Dirt and not copper makes a color darker."

    "...sick color that is grey..."

    "Winged, to be winged means that white is yellow and pieces pieces that are brown are dust color..."

    "...why is silver cloister..."

    "A dark grey, a very dark grey, a quite dark grey is monstrous ordinarily, it is so monstrous because there is no red in it. If red is in everything it is not necessary."

    And so forth...

    April 16, 2013

    • Larry B.

      And since Trakl and the painter Oskar Kokoschka were good friends, here is a link to a poem that Kokoschka wrote. I wonder what Trakl thought of it (if he saw it before he died). The poem is Little Red Fish (original German not given):­

      April 18, 2013

    • Larry B.

      P.P.S. Although maybe Kokoschka wrote it in English, since he spent some time in Scotland.

      April 18, 2013

  • Larry B.

    Trakl apparently painted another self-portrait, according to another site: "He once borrowed a friend's easel and paints to do a haunting self-portrait that ... pushed colors to the limits of their expressionist capacity. He used blue, green, and bright red to surround the hollows of his mouth and eyes in the painting, which was done in Salzburg in 1913. He wore a red carnation in his army cap as a young recruit in Innsbruck in August, 1914."

    April 16, 2013

  • Larry B.

    In March, 1914, Trakl painted a self-portrait, described on one site thusly: "the grotesque frozen features are simplified and accentuated to achieve a mask-like effect set against a background of luminous ghostly aquamarine. The deep blue shading on the face in coarse brushwork forms a stark contrast to the garish reds and browns of the highlighted parts. The overlarge eyes are merely empty hollows darkened with a dull and deathly blue."

    April 16, 2013

  • Larry B.

    Arlinda, thanks for the concern regarding Monday's sad event. Changing subject, if I had known that the meeting was more of a discussion group, I would have come better prepared.

    Regarding Trakl's use of color: he was friends with the painter Oskar Kokoschka and spent hours watching him paint. It seems that Trakl wanted color in his poetry to have an emotional impact, although it's not always clear to me what that impact is meant to be.

    April 16, 2013

  • Arlinda S.

    Our reading of Trakl's charged poems was eerily timely. As I recall, the last poem we read was "Mourning." I hope you are not directly affected by today events.

    1 · April 15, 2013

  • Matt

    Sorry for the late change on my RSVP. Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it tonight. Looking forward to see you all soon though!

    April 13, 2013

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