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This review is taken from PN Review 206, Volume 38 Number 6, July - August 2012.

The Urge to Disappoint rolf dieter brinkmann, An Unchanging Blue: Selected Poems 1962-1975, translated by Mark Terrill (Parlor Press) $18.00

Rolf Dieter Brinkmann was an extraordinary poet. German, born 1940 and sadly killed in a road accident in London in 1975, he was in a way the last thing you'd expect of German poetical traditions East or West, which after the war indulged a lot of guilt-laden figurative writing, and yet it is easy to see him as a product of the often violent youth rebelliousness which arose in the former Axis countries in his generation, for his poetry was in rebellion against just about everything down to the very bones of the language, and his main purpose often seems to be to strip poetry of all forms of signification in favour of a flat language saying nothing about anything and depicting nothing beyond the static, humdrum facts of existence - 'one morning I came back home with / something, / now / it sits on the windowsill, and I come / in the room, I wash my hands, I / dry my hands, / and go out again' ('Everyday Music'). (When he gets back at the end of the poem the 'something', whatever it is, has gone.) There is no understanding offered, because there is nothing to understand. It is no use looking for subtle undercurrents - there aren't any. As for 'meaning' - it means exactly what little it says. It is not about anything except itself.

This fairly typical short poem offers two clues to his methods. '“Why” is a / question / only ...


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