Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

What is your name? Fernando Rendon 2012

A poem for my friend Hatto Fischer, with brotherwood:


You dry the sources of dew and engender the dreary swamps of meanness.

You descend, transforming the incandescence of the human spirit into a sum of catastrophes.

From your terrible hand earthquakes and disasters sprout like almonds of misfortune.

You break serenity and the balance between earth and heaven.

What is your name?”


You invaded and looted nations, century after century.

You fastened shackles and fetters to the feet of slaves.

You started up the gas ovens of Auschwitz.

You threw the bomb on Hiroshima, on the heads of the innocent.


You snatch the bread from the thin hands of millions of indigents.

You inject amnesia, separating humans from the deep root.

With perverse joy, you cheat mortals of their thin illusions.

You overwhelm them with fear and limits, and forbid desire.

You hoard the world’s gold in your greedy hands.

You manufacture scandalous weapons and bestial laws.

You sarcastically execute and then breach treaties.

You escalate and nourish every annihilation war.

You rule nations with an iron fist.

Why do you want to ruin us?”


You made the poets who kept in wait turn into nihilists.

You encouraged the Bacchants to tear Orpheus to pieces in the Grecian hills.

You crucified Christ every day to satisfy the empires.

You lighted the wood in the fire where Giordano Bruno burned.

You put François Villon behind bars. How many more?

You banished Arthur Rimbaud to Abyssinia and tore off his leg.

You persecuted the free – Blake, Char, Ritzos.

You blew a stormy sky over the senses of Van Gogh and Nietzsche.

One of your bullets wounded sweet Apollinaire in the head.

You poisoned the hearts of the great with pain.

You snatched their lives away and crushed their bones.

What do you want in your mad delirium?”


You murder gods and liberators.

You distribute the water of madness among all.

You lead the children’s crusade towards the precipices of darkness.

You turn every past promise into a future curse.

Bragging, you wither the colors of immortality.

Your spell turns all flexibility into the rigidity of horror.

Everything your twisted branch touches is turned into forlorn ashes.

When were you born, mother of all misfortunes?”


Go away, shadow. Why don’t you vanish, why don’t you go to hell?


Will certain forms of language not make you retreat?


A spring arisen from a circle of stones and words that are converging and embracing – will that not capture you?


A loving spell, the certainty of a universe not yet noticed, the development of a sacred incursion in search of the new human love – an imperceptible and persistent call to a decisive time, a general strike, a paralysis of machines, a commotion – the powerful circulation of poetry in every human – will all this not make you go pale one day, one day, one day?


Fernando Rendón


Kreisau, 25.2.2012

Dear Fernando,

since you dedicate this poem 'What is your name?' to my person, and add
'with brotherwood' (not brotherhood), let me continue on that level with
this one question: who is made of wood? It was once used as metaphor to
designate psychiatrists who would enter and leave therapy sessions
without showing any sign of feeling. That would link up with your
categorization of European poetry as being too intellectual and thus
your proposal that Europe and European poetry could stand to learn
something from the Latin American spirit of poetry. And since I have
asked you how do you understand my position and that of Philip, and not
European poetry in general, I suppose I got my answer in a somewhat
unexpected way. But from your previous statements I must say it does not
surprise me when you vent your frustration and anger in such a heavy,
equally one sided way so that you need to paint Europe solely with the
colour 'black'.

But let me tell you first of all how I responded to your poem. It is a
powerful statement, very exclusive in its negativity, and puts Europe
and me as representative of Europe into such an incredible negative
position, that I ask if there is left a chance to get out of such
pre-notion and perception?  

There is still another response of mine. For once I had read it, I took a deep
breath as if having just received such a heavy blow to the chest that
for a moment my breathing seemed to stop. 

Once there is nothing left as if the entire earth has been burned, then
there remains only black, black, black...so that you may end up
waiting in vain for the day, day, day.... when it would dawn on this
European not merely to realize what has been done in the past,  indeed throughout history,
but far worse is learn through others that they believe this negativity will continue endlessly since Europe shall not learn.

There is another level of response. Adorno said after Auschwitz no more
poetry is possible. You seem to ignore that.

As to Ritsos and others, it shows who you appreciate and whom you can
refer to when speaking about European poets.
I did speak on the phone with Ritsos a few days before he died. Coming
from West Berlin in 1988 to Greece, I wondered why he accepted the DDR
prize just when that state was crumbling. Did he never see the lack of
freedom in that state? 

Of course, the philosopher Bruno was burned at the stake during that era of witch hunt,
but he was burned because he refused to share his knowledge with a
businessman who wanted to know more than what he could handle. We still
struggle with this problem of revenge. All efforts especially in
philosophy go in the direction of attempts to civilize state, law and
the use of 'violence' so that the police does not torture but can be
challenged by every citizen. 

But given your all exclusive negation of anything having to do with
Europe, my real question would be drawn out of the lesson I took from
Picasso. As you know in response to what happened in Guernica in 1937,
he painted on this huge canvas a mural still standing today for peace in
a special way. And you know it has become the starting point for Kids'
Guernica. After Picasso had painted the mural, he was attacked by both
the Left and the Right for not showing either the evil of Fascism or for
not exposing the violence of the Left. Picasso did not make a political
statement in his painting but he did show human pain in a very abstract
symbolism: a broken sword, one arm reaching up into thin air in vain and
a naked light bulb dangling from the ceiling. He made visible the human
cry without creating an enemy picture. He showed human understanding and
human pain. This is also the credo of Kids' Guernica: how to paint the
contrast between war and peace without resorting to an enemy picture.
When the children painted their mural in Kabul, they showed to the left
of the mural a plane dropping bombs, but the plane had no insignia so
that you could not know if the plane was an American or a Russian one.
For important is the analysis as to where violence comes from in order
to know how to stop it from continuing to violate human rights, and not
to be right by proving how wrong is the other side in terms of an overt

By contrast your poem is creating such an absolute enemy picture of
Europe (and USA if you include Hiroshima) and you use a very heavy paint
brush of morality that knows only black and white: here the good and
there the bad. 

My first thought went to what Michel Foucault declared to be of great
importance: we have to find and discover the places of silence before
the lyrical protest covers them up. 

Indeed, your poem is a lyrical protest, so I shall ask how many times
did someone wanted to say something, but could not. What did you think
about this silence when you wrote still another line out of a wish your wish
to silence the silence of Europe, since you want an answer. 
Indeed, we need to speak up in order to continue making a point. 

I do not want to urge you to write in future more balanced but I would
ask if you do not realize that you paint over so many places where other
voices inside of you would have liked to speak up, even contradict you? 

But you decided Latin America is the victim and Europe the villain, and
yet Latin America has something which Europe does not have. Hence Europe
should listen.  

As you know I am right now in Poland to spend time with a group of
youth to discuss the linkage between 'nation and identity'. One of the
boys from Athens and therefore from my neighbourhood has joined this
workshop which has gathered 29 youths from all over Europe. He has
worked in Chile and in Buenos Aires and wrote how in Latin American
countries patriotism is misused by the elite to make people toe the line
as to what the government wants them to do. To him and three other
youths I read the poem to show them how we here in Europe can be
perceived by someone living in Latin America. They were astonished but
also not taken back. Rather they said such an expression is written to
give yourself the satisfaction of not being the bad guy but Europe. They
made briefly their thoughts and then went on to discuss other things. 

Since through the dedication you make me personally responsible for
everything that Europe has done, I can only say that I do accept this
responsibility. Naturally if you make me stand for everything that is
negative, I can only wonder how can you continue to communicate with me?
It must be most aweful for you to have to deal on top of it all with me,
since for you any intellectual living and writing in Europe must be the
worst possible person. And you underline all that still further that
nothing can be learned by you from what we do here in Europe, but
instead we should learn from you by tapping into the experiences you
have been making especially at the poetry festivals in Medellin. 

I could end this letter with referring to the saying that once
everything has been burned down to the ground, then we have to see what
will arise out of the ashes. But I do not wish to speak to you through
the flowers, but directly. As said it is a powerful lyrical protest and
has to be taken as your way to perceive the world. 


hatto fischer


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