- Germany -
was born in Bad Säckingen, Germany, in 1975. After living in Seattle, Paris, Tübingen, and Freiburg (among other places), he has been based primarily in Berlin since 2003. He has published five books of poetry: Dodos auf der Flucht. Requiem für ein verlorenes Bestiarium(Verlagshaus Berlin, 2018), Morphine(Verlagshaus Berlin, 2014), Massenhaft Tiere(Verlagshaus Berlin, 2011), O Wildnis Dunkelheit! – Nachtgedichte(Offizin S. Meran, 2009), andKassandra im Fenster(with Friederike Mayröcker and Bettina Galvagni, Offizin S. Meran, 2008). In 2016, his novella, Ebola Global', was released by the renowned underground publisher SuKulTuR whose booklets are distributed in vending machines.
In 2002, he was awarded a Hermann Lenz Writing Grant. In 2015, he traveled to Hōkkaido, Japan with a Yakiuta Travel Grant; in addition to his research there for Dodos auf der Flucht, work from his residence in Hōkkaido will appear in 2020 in a band of poetry on Japan. He was awarded the Medienpreis RAI Südtirol from Lyrikpreis Meran in 2016. In 2017, he was appointed Writer-in-Residence at Kommandantenhaus Dilsberg by the Kulturstiftung Rhein-Neckar-Kreis e.V. Mikael Vogel is a current recipient of the 2019 Literaturstipendium from the German state of Baden-Württemberg.
His poem “An den Schluckspecht” [To the Boozehound] inspired a craft beer with the name “Schluckspecht Pils” [Boozehound Pilsner] from the Berlin-based microbrewery Bierfabrik—his poem is printed on the label. Friederike Mayröcker included two poems by Mikael Vogel in the list of her 25 favorite poems of all time.
On Humans Beings. And No Other Swines!
March 1, 2018
Mikael Vogel’s Dodos auf der Flucht[Dodos on the Run]has finally hit bookshelves. After teasers in the form of several of his individual poems (Fixpoetry, “Text of the Day” on February 20, 2018, November 30, 2017, November 30, 2016, and September 7, 2016; “Ästhetiken des Bewahrens” [Conservation Aesthetics] in Triëdere 12, January 2015; or first readings during events like the Lyrikbuchhandlung at the 2017 Frankfurter Buchmesse),it can now be read and appreciated in full, together with illustrations from Ohio-based artist Brian R. Williams.
The results of his meticulous work on the topic of mass extinction is, in my eyes, nothing less than an epoch-defining work, the ooetryis [whoops, honestly: that was a typo, but some errors prove themselves to be profoundly correct. “'Ō'ōsiert euch!” Vogel’s call to—in keeping with the tradition of his publishing house—maintain the spelling conventions of 'Ōlelo Hawai'i, the oral Hawaiian language. Hold your breath before I toss this bird into the sky and hope his wings are strong enough to evade the critics still waiting with loaded rifles to live out their big game hunter fantasies]… Let me repeat myself: an epochal work, skillfully combining poetry, biology, and natural history with political statements on climate protection. This knowledge is the product of obsession (another 'Ō'ō), the result of long years of research, all but uncontainable in its scope, and constantly necessitating update. Climate change? Climate change deniers:
John Howard, Australian Prime Minister (1995-2007): obsolete; Donald Trump, U.S. President (2017-the demise of Homo sapiens sapiens?): desolate. White men make money first: “We are just money grabbers.”
Vogel writes about humanity (and in his “Sonograms from a Wave of Extinctions” about the Anthropocene, the era which places human power in the absolute midpoint):
Rather than focus on the real scope of the disaster, the destroyer stages himself in his destroyer role, imposing—in his delusions of grandeur—his own name onto the geochronological epoch of his dictatorship of extinction: the narzissismof an entire species[…] The act of annihilation remains absent from the concept of the Anthropocene. Its victims remain excluded. One abstains from even implicit empathy for other lives. Would it not have been more appropriate to create a monument for those targeted?
Vogel calls the protagonists of extermination—proud stupid hunters (cowardly swine) or the products of multinational corporations—by name, as they’ve been handed down in the written record. In doing so, he rightly identifies the ways in which the extermination of the animal world went hand-in-hand with the extermination of indigenous peoples, the depletion of nature, and its mineral resources. The examples are plentiful: Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania); Jón Brandsson and Sigurður Ísleifsson strangling the last Great Auk and Ketill Ketilson crushing its final egg on June 3, 1844; the death of the dusky seaside sparrows and the Bengal tigers from DDT (J.R. Geigy Ltd.) and Diclofenac (Ciba-Geigy Ltd.). Just look at Arundhati Roy’s exposition from The Ministry of Utmost Happinessfor comparison:
The vultures died of diclofenac poisoning. Diclofenac, cow aspirin, given to cattle as a muscle relaxant, to ease pain and increase the production of milk, works—worked—like nerve gas on white-backed vultures. Each chemically relaxed milk-producing cow or buffalo that died became poisoned vulture bait. As cattle turned into better dairy machines, as the city ate more ice cream, butterscotch-crunch, nutty-buddy and chocolate-chip, as it drank more mango milkshake, vultures’ necks began to droop as though they were tired and simply couldn’t stay awake.
Vogel can verify:
Museums with their stuffed animals behind glass eyes are smothering mausoleums. They are as outdated and boring as they are grounded in injustice, a realization one makes at the latest among the artificial dioramas of familiar, local animals. What sense is there today in these immobile beasts?
A visit to the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt—owner of a complete and mounted thylacine skeleton, the so-called Tasmanian wolf (one of only 28 exemplars worldwide), and a taxidermied dermoplastic thylacine (one of approximately 100 worldwide)—allows one to experience the urgency of Vogel’s question in a tangible manner. In fact, the question has already been answered. The Darmstadt thylacine can be used as a “Fun-&-Event-Backdrop” for Facebook photos [I was in DADArmstadt: dada dodo]. The commercial use of these images [it’s questionable whether this book review might constitute commercial use] requires a permit, and presumably also a cash payment. [Disguised as commentary, these
parenthetical insertionsbullet holes allow no room for discussion, no pause for further development, for the hatching of mature thoughts. It is an existential crisis. SOS – Save our site. For we humans can also go the way of the animals. Capitalism devours and devours and shits and shits.] So the circulatory system of exploitation remains unbroken.
In the process of its ascension, humanity has increasingly come to monopolize extinction, as it has monopolized the planet. A kind of success story.
Vogel’s monument in words. A must-read!
(*P.S. Julia Leigh also writes on the thylacine inThe Hunter. Thank you, Debbie Lim, for the reference.*)
By Eric Giebel
To the Last Dodo / An den letzten Dodo
Too large, too
Heavy, wings too fine, your pectoral muscles
Too weak to fly: How does it feel to be the very last, in-
Toxicated with fermented fruits.. wanting sex, seeking
But finding no one, blue on Mauritius and everyone else gone away?
Transported on long voyages, living cans of Spam, your eggs devoured by
Human beings and other swine, rats
Apes.. waiting to be consumed – towering three feet into
Loneliness, a 44-pound weightTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi
The Labrador Duck / Die Labradorente
Almost nothing known about
It.. though it spent its winter months
By New York City, on the North Atlantic coast.
Tender lateral flaps protruded from a flattened bill
Likely for feeling prey beneath the waves: shellfish
Crustaceans, mollusks.. lamellae in its lower jaw to sieve the sand
When burrowing. Drowned on hooks fishermen hauled in with their catch.
On the markets of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Baltimore, Philadelphia
Its flesh disesteemed, festering unpurchased for its fishy taste.
Nesting grounds never located
No one knows why they died out, though they probably
Like other ducks, slept with one open eye –
The last Labrador duck surprised December 12, 1878
Elmira, Southern Tier, New York, a hunter’s rifle blast.
From autumn 1875, Long Island: the last corpse to be preserved
Wears a plastic bag upon its head
Sheds feathers now
When touchedTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi
The Thylacine / Der Beutelwolf
Tasmania was its and its alone.. raised
Sheltered in its mothers’ pouch, eschewing no
Fight, it mostly played victor. Hunting in long forays for
Wombats, wallabies, possums, potoroos, trout. Then
Arriving settlers from Europe. Clear-cut woods for pastureland
Drove it away, its prey grown scarce. Could open its jaws to
90° – but its bite was too weak to kill a sheep
The sheep industry accused it of this crime. Eradicated for bounty
Van Diemen’s Land Company, colonizing its island, hid its own
Mismanagement from stockholders in London, bounty
Rising with the bodies settlers turned in – soon the government determined budgets
Maintained annihilation pressure on thylacines, posting annual savings
As sightings became rare. Also called Tasmanian Tiger
Exaggerating danger. Alleged vampirism on ovine throats, locking
Jaws in scholarly literature. Its threats resembled yawns.
The final thylacine died the night of September 7, 1936 in a
Cage at Hobart Zoo, locked from sleeping quarters in winter cold.
The government had declared it a protected species 59 days before. Birth of
Offspring in captivity: a one-time successTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi
The Passenger Pigeons / Die Wandertauben
To the windowpane, your cat-eyes to the pigeon on the building’s
Eaves. If only you knew how many passenger pigeons
Once filled the skies! Their flocks darkened the sun for days at a
Time, from horizon to horizon, one flow of feathers
Fluttering hearts, bodies pulsing together, closer and closer in seamless
Strata – billions of birds, always followed by the next
Platoon. Dung fell like melting snowflakes. They say the noise of wingbeats
Was like a lullaby.. entire forests
Served as breeding grounds, branches broke together beneath the weight
Of countless bodies. From the Rocky Mountains to the Hudson Bay, down to
The Gulf of Mexico, these nomads filled East North America in search of
Nuts, berries, fruit. When divebombed by a falcon they dissolved
In angles, curves, and undulations – evolutions reproduced in their perfection
By every new flock in the same place of the attack
The heavens inscribed anew. Although your lips are trembling,
You, tiny flustered cat, can no longer see their flight maneuvers with your own
Eyes: Shot down in huddled masses, slain, devoured, their forests cleared away
No pigeons left. With a single gunshot on April 3, 1902, they left the world.
The last hanger-on, Martha, died September 1, 1914, at 1 pm in the Cincinnati
ZooTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi
American Airlines Flight 275 / American-Airlines-Flug 275
First flight outside her cage
Martha ascended 52 years after her death
On a passenger flight, packed in a crate, from Washington D.C.
The Smithsonian Institution lent her preserved body
For an anniversary exhibition to the San Diego Zoo.
The journey, according to their deal
Was to be completed in the security of a stewardess’ lap. So many years
After the extermination of all passenger pigeons a sudden
Fear of lossTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi
The Steller’s Sea Cow / Die Stellersche Seekuh
Dragging along the bottom on its
Stumps, grazing kelp, stolid colossus
Thirty feet in length, weighing in more than ten tons, tree-bark skin, 40 pounds of heart.
Toothless, only mammal without finger bones, incapable of self-defense
When Vitus Bering’s ship wrecked on its solitary shore
Seeking a land bridge between Asia and America
In the name of Czar Peter the Great, hungry seamen savaged
Sea cows alive. Bering died of scurvy, the naturalist accompanying him
Georg Wilhelm Steller announced their existence on his return to
Mainland Russia. Buffet opened – 27 years after discovery, seal
Hunters clubbed to death its last of kin. Victuals and oil.
Some, Steller describes, hewed great pieces from the
Still living beast. The female’s vulva is located eight inches above the anus
One can easily fit five fingers in the vaginal opening
Without constraintTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi
To a Dwarf Elephant on Malta / An einen Zwergelefanten auf Malta
How does it feel: To be a restless nomad
Stranded on a Mediterranean isle? Big-footed
Your ancestors ventured out by lowered seas
Of the Ice Age to unknown lands, leaving footprints
Where no elephant had gone before. When the ice came to its end
The water rose and they stood trapped
And after them stood you. Faced with depleting resources, there wasn’t much to do but
Shrink.. from foot to shoulder you were
Less than three feet tall. How did it feel
To lose your legroom, to hunger
Stolen glances out to
On Sicily, at least, your skull
Would have evoked cyclopesTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi
An eine Bonin-Erddrossel in einer Schachtel in einer Schublade im Sammlungsraum des Senckenberg Naturmuseums in Frankfurt / To a Bonin Thrush in a Box in a Drawer in the Collections of the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt
Auf dem Rücken liegend
Dein Luftkleid zer-
Zaust, eine Flaumbreit zu ungekämmt um im
Nächsten Moment mit anmutvoller Leichtheit glattgestrichen zu werden..
Dein Schnabel hält still
Deinen Kopf trägst du abge-
Wendet, weiße Bauchfedernzärtlichkeit.
Als von Kittlitz am 2. Mai 1828 auf Chichijima ankam ent-
Deckte, erschlug er euch noch an der Landungsstelle – ihr wart so viele!
Den Boden bezogt ihr dem Himmel einfach mit ein!
Zwei Jahre später begannen Walfänger für Schiffsreparaturen anzulegen
Ratten, Siedler gingen an
Land, Ziegen, Schweine, Hunde, Katzen. Deine Zehen auseinanderge-
Deine Art ist niemals wiederge-
Funden wordenTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi
To the Xerces Blue / An den Xerces-Bläuling
Once fluttering over
Dunes around the edge of San Francisco
Your seams sighed on by salty whispers of unendingness and sea..
Rain threatened you with drowning, wind with rattling away
You lived only a few weeks from Mid-March until
Mid-April, seeking from first-flight the violet smudges of eyeliner on the tanned wings of your females
With iridescent blue and eyelash-fluttering
Of impassioned points of white outside your wings.
Laying their eggs on cat’s clover and lupines. Where ants warded off
Wasps and parasites from your caterpillars in exchange for sustenance of
Honeydew from glands on their backs – until Argentinian ants
Supplanted the Californian, urban development overbuilt your dunes with
Luxury homes, the Sunset District, today one of the most densely-populated of
The City. A few hangers-on at the military base on the Presidio, eliminated
By the building of a landing strip. There with the four-year-old Golden Gate Bridge as backdrop
The last Xerces Blue flew in the chilly springtime air of March 23, 1941
Into an entomology professor’s
The pinned and mounted secret of your metamorphosisTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi
The Golden Toads / Die Goldkröten
Just a few square miles
Of cloudy elfin forest in Costa Rica
Between crawling boughs, stirring roots, dripping leaves
In 1964: unfathomably luminousneonorangegold, posing sublime in
Unbridled stillness before sex.. lived underground
Above only in
April for a few days of orgy to greet the rain.
First, awaited females, bodies taut.
Any movement an advance – the first twitching limb provoked hops and cries
Throughout the mass; whoever managed to mount another’s back clung on
For hours, regardless of rivals’ violence. Coincidental lovers
Left seafoams of fertilized eggs in puddles under roots.
Last sighting: May 15, 1989 when
For the second year in a row only one single, golden male emerged.
Human-spread fungal infection, chytridiomycosis, on a
Warming globeTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi