/ 16 November 2015

I am a child of the punk rock generation

A conversation with Christoph W. Bauer

Your poems mention such names as Catullus or Villon. What literary tradition do you refer back to? What is your attitude towards the Austrian and German tradition?

It’s hard to give a short answer to those but I think I have always been drawn to poetry which is rooted in its age but which at the same time transcends the temporal framework and seeks reference and footholds. Thanks to this it becomes timeless and in this sense, prevailing. I would not like to limit myself solely to Catullus or Villon, I could mention at this point several poets, including those from the German-speaking world.

How do you see your poetry against the backdrop of modern German literature?

I try to follow my own path, irrespective of fashionable trends, which exist not only in German literature.

You blend various genres in a post-modernistic way e.g. Latin poetry with punk rock. What do you want to achieve by this – a sense of continuity? Do you want to stress the continuity of culture? Or maybe it’s about something else?

I generally don’t want to achieve anything at all by this. In the volume mein lieben mein hassen mein mittendrin du I merely try to join together the influences which turned me into a writer. I am a child of the punk rock generation so it’s obvious that this type of music has had influence on my way of thinking and writing, just like dabbling with poetry from different epochs.

The ‘lyrical I’ in your poems often feels strange, alienated or uprooted. Even in his own existence and sense of being. Where does the feeling come from?

You’d have to ask my lyrical I for an answer, I can only interpret why he feels strange, alienated or uprooted. Maybe because we are living in the era of alienation and uprooting?

Your first poetic volume wege verzweigt appeared in 1999, sixteen years ago. How would you say your poetry has evolved? What has changed during this time in your attitude towards poems and your lyrical world?

Sixteen years already! Yes, quite a bit has definitely changed in my writing manner. For example, in the new volume of poetry I right out try to formulate things slightly more aptly and concisely. I also more often rhyme and use the structure of songs.

I know that you also translate. From which languages? What is the art of translation for you and how do these experiences find reflection in your own poetic work?

I do translate but not professionally, more for private reasons. From Latin, and because I am often in France, also from French. Translation gives me the chance to work more intensively with a language. Here every word counts and each word is of special significance in the context of a given poem. Translation teaches us not to treat the first word that comes to your head as unquestionable. Translating a text is hard work and so is writing. My translating experience is therefore verified when I write.

Have you ever been interested in Polish literature and in particular –poetry? And if so, whose output was it and did it provide an inspiration for you in some way?

Oh, yes, Polish literature! I sadly know only a few writers from the younger generation. But Zagajewski, Szymborska, Miłosz and Herbert –fantastic. I often read their poems. And that wonderful reference to Marcus Aurelius in Herbert! As I said at the beginning, the poetry totally rooted in its own time and seeking reference points in another space-time.

Interview by Sława Lisiecka

Translated by Magda Moran, Sean Moran