Tuesday, May 23, 2006

impossibility of authentic connection, part 2

I hadn’t worked this hard on something literary since I was hammering away at my doctorate…I hope you guys find it interesting, and I look forward to reading your comments. Not that I have any illusions that my groupies will find this page.


Let’s see, what’s left from my brief list…the impossibility of authentic connection between artist/audience in “Links 234” (I am omitting “Ich will” because I know I’m overly influenced by the video), self/self in “Zwitter.” self/other in “Eifersucht,” dead/living and human/divine in “Engel” and “Heirate mich,” and self/family in “Spieluhr.” (I had previously listed “Tier” and “Spiel mit mir,” but I don’t think I have much that’s new to contribute. I wrote a lot about them, then cut it.) I will add to this list the perpetual disconnect between sexual partners, specifically the imposed disconnection as seen in “Bestrafe mich,” “Bück Dich,” and “Feuerrader,” and how these relationships attempt to affirm themselves.

Aside from being a response to critics, “Links 234” asks some interesting questions about metaphors concerning hearts. It’s as if the narrator is pointing out that these metaphors, as listed in the lyrics, are poor substitutes for direct description, yet at the same time the narrator employs a metaphor to describe his own political position:

Sie wollen mein Herz am rechten Fleck
doch seh ich dann nach unten weg
da schlägt es links

To question an artist’s position based on inferences drawn from the cover of a CD is, of course, ridiculous (and this song came out well before the Linkspartei was created earlier this year). Metaphors are matters of convenience, yet the narrator uses a metaphor to reject metaphors. This ambiguity creates a fascinating intersection between the poet and the political activist. If we can use metaphors to describe states of being, then the poet is the ultimate political activist, because poetry, at least what one might think of as conventional poetry (not considering avant-garde poetry here), excels at metaphor. If political skill means choosing the right metaphor at the right time, then poets are political savants.

“Zwitter” is interesting because in its description of the utterly self-absorbed person, it describes the figure that is increasingly becoming Everyman, at least in America. (Reading the second stanza is like reading a chapter from a self-help book.) The problem with self-absorption is the lack of reference and the tightening spiral of consciousness, a lesson probably presented best in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Without external reference, just as with the characters in “Tier” who have little externality, the narrator of “Zwitter” will never be able to experience any of the real depth of character that comes from connecting with others. He will be all surface, no depth—and that includes his understanding of himself. Thus, self-alienation is his only reward for his self-love.

Sometimes self-love begets jealousy of others, and sometimes jealousy is a reaction to other circumstances. “Eifersucht,” as a portrait of the jealousy of others, relies on an interesting poetic convention, that of the blazon. The blazon was a cataloguing of a woman’s body in order to fully explicate her beauty. In “Eifersucht,” however, the fine qualities of the narrator are catalogued, and in the process, so is the mixed jealousy and envy of the onlooker:

Bin ich schöner
zerschneid mir das Gesicht
bin ich stärker
brich feige mein Genick
bin ich klüger
töte mich und iss mein Hirn
Hab ich dein Weib
töte mich und iss mich ganz auf
dann iss mich ganz auf

“Eifersucht” could be applied far beyond simple love relationships, of course; rival bands, other performers, critics, the boyfriends of female fans, all such persons and others could feel passionate and violent desires. One could also argue that because this is a message from one man to another, the violence is expected and perhaps even unremarkable. The key phrase occurs in the second stanza—“doch leck den Teller ab,” i.e., do the job completely, because otherwise, you’re still a dumb, ugly coward. The narrator is better in every way than the onlooker, both of them know it, and worse, the woman in question knows it. The narrator taunts the onlooker not with his own superiority, but with the onlooker’s poor showing. To destroy the narrator, even down to his soul, will not make the onlooker superior. The narrator is a work of art, and compared to him, the onlooker is miserable, incapable of taking Rilke’s advice in “Archaic Bust of Apollo”: Du mußt dein Leben ändern, “You must change your life.” The threat of violence is the onlooker’s only response to art, a threat that makes him nothing more than a beast.

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