Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Poetic responses

Poetry and Greece

A lot has happened once contact with Greece became real. A first visit in 1966 evoked the love to swim out into the open sea. Far out, I met my first love. She was called Neraida. She was a fishing boat.

Naturally some other experiences were made during this one month visit of my uncle and aunt, Tillo and Naomi Kuhn. Upon arrival by Charter early in the morning at Hellikon (the old) airport, they did not take me straight home but took me vis a vis the Acropolis still closed around that early morning, up on Filopapo where a businessman declared his love for his wife by dedicating her a monument. We slept often on the roof tops to taste the warm nights but my uncle lived in Mati. One day, while driving his VW bus, I picked up six hitch hiking girls from England, among them Jane Harden who came to see me later in Montreal 1967. They stayed vis a vis our house and camped on the premise of the neighbors. Since my uncle bought around that time a strip of land along the water front of Gialtra Bay on the island of Evia, I got to know Aedipsos with its hot baths and the village Gialtra full of side street cafes with some running in their television the programme of the Communists, the others closer to what was the Conservative media in the country.

Two things stick out in my memory when looking back at this short time in Greece 1966. One was the experience of the three farmers from Gialtra which we took with the VW bus from Evia to Athens, and who shouted "opa,opa" whenever we passed a military truck as if they sensed what was to come. The other was a concert in Herodos Atticus with the Leningrad Symphony orchester and the cello player Mstislav Leopoldovich "Slava" Rostropovich. After the first symphony had been played, the audience applauded so long that the orchestra allowed him to play a solo piece. The big man came up front of the stage, bowed down and when coming up he anounced what he was going to play: "Bach". After this piece, the audience applauded even louder. The orchester left the stage out of respect of this artist. Again he went up front, bent down and announced: "Bach". In the silence of this open amphitheatre every sound can be heard even high up. It was magical. The orchester returned to the stage after he had completed his second solo piece, but the audience continued to applaud. The orchester allowed him to play a third solo. Now everyone was anxious to hear what would be the third piece he is going to play! He bowed down, and then announced again: "Bach!" Everyone laughed shortly and then settled in again a careful listening mode to soak in his way of playing the cello. After the entire concert was over, he stayed and we went up to talk with him. The long evening allows that in Athens especially when it takes place underneath the Acropolis.

What followed the next year in 1997 was really more than just sad. Dictatorship in the land which gave birth to Democracy has still to be explained. Since my uncle Tillo Kuhn knew Andres Papandreou, the two had taught at Berkeley University, and then my uncle came at the request of Andreas to Greece to be both economic and transport advisor, my family has partaken directly in all the agonies Greece has been going through. Andreas Papandreou was first arrested, and then released thanks to my uncle's intervention, in order to teach at York University in Toronto, Canada. Andreas Papandreou called what took place in the years 1964-67 with his father set to win the elections in 1967 and which was then prevented by the coup in his book "Democracy at Gunpoint", even though that is not the full story.

During the rule of the Military Junta from 1967 until 1974, Greece went through a phase of both internal and external resistance. The uprising of students at the Polytechnic in 1973 was the critical turning point. One such an account which impressed me deeply was the story of Panagoulis narrated by the Italian Journalist Orania Fellaci. When reading it while traveling home in the Berlin Metro from night duty at an intensive care station for neuro-surgical operations, I had to laugh suddenly so loud at the spot when she describes how he would suddenly rush out of the shower and jump to her into bed completely wet. The story ends in a complot on how he was crushed to death in a car accident after having been ramned by a rally driver on the Vougliamenis Street of Athens. While in prison, and being tortured, he wrote poems with his own blood on the prison walls. Like Ritsos and many others, poetry was then a source of resistance and a way to stay alive.

Poems by Panagoulis

The teardrops which you will see
flowing from our eyes
you should never believe
signs of despair.
They are only promise
promise for Fight.

(Military Prisons of Bogiati, February 1972)

Vi scrivo da un carcere in Grecia, 1974

My Address
A match as a pen
Blood on the floor as ink
The forgotten gauze cover as paper
But what should I write?
I might just manage my address
This ink is strange; it clots
I write you from a prison
in Greece

(Military Prisons of Bogiati, 5 June 1971 – After beating)

Vi scrivo da un carcere in Grecia, 1974.

The Paint
I gave life to the walls
a voice I gave them
more friendly so that would become my company
and the guards asked
to know where they could find the paint
The walls of the cell
kept the secret
and the mercenaries searched everywhere
but paint they could not find
Because they did not think for one moment
that they should search into my veins

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandros_Panagoulis

I had refused to visit Greece during that time, while continuing to live in Ottawa, Canada, if only interrupted by a six month work stay in Montreal due to work as host at the Canadian Pavillion of EXPO '67, and another trip to Europe in 1968. In 1969 I move to London to study at LSE and to observe from that vantage point how the resistance against the Military dictatorship was mounting protest.

There were others like the archaeologist Heilmeyer who did quite the opposite. He took up his first job by starting to dig in Ancient Olympia precisely in the year when the military took over in 1967. His decision was to help locally his Greek friends where ever he could, just as the Goethe Institute in Athens became a crucial support for the resistance.

There were many Greeks who had fled into exile, whether to Paris, London, Berlin or New York. Everywhere they joined the resistance movement. Leading figures in exile were among many other prominent intellectuals, artists, Greek citizens, Andreas Papandreou and Melina Mercouri. The famous actress from "Never on Sunday" made a famous return organized by her brother Spyros Mercouris since she toured all European capitals to ensure a return to democracy.

One unforgetable moment during that time was for me the reading of Pablo Neruda at the Round House in London in 1969. He read the poems of Yannis Ritsos whom he called his 'brother' and who had been prevented from coming for obvious reasons since imprisoned. With Ritsos I took up contact by phone after having semi-moved Athens in 1988, but it was too late to meet him in person since he passed away during that same year.

Later on, when again in Germany, Guenter Wallraff, the often under cover journalist, made a spectacular symbolic protest by chaining himself to a lamp post in Syntagma Square. The main question was why had the military dictatorship been tolerated or even encouraged by such hidden forces as the CIA and therefore the American government, but also why this contradiction between Greece as birthplace of democracy and dictatorship could even last that long as it did. Naturally during this time span two events shattered many dreams, namely the ending of the Prague Spring in 1968 and the coup of Pinochet in Chile 1973. The suppression of freedom was unmatched in the latter case as it was done with utmost brutality for which the immediate death of Neruda shortly after the death of Allende, and the brutal ending of Viktor Jara, the gitarist whose hands were first smashed with a hammer, and then killed in the football stadium of San Diego. It sent a shiver through everyone's spine and silenced many more than what could have been anticipated after the Student Movement had sought to break through that silence vis a vis ongoing wars and undemocratic practices. Here the contradiction in Greece became a clear measure for everyone what was not to be accepted under any circumstance. Many new affinities to Greece were born during that time.

When teaching Art History and Philosophy / Aesthetics at the Free Art School ETAGE in Berlin from 1985-87, the last course I gave was on Ritsos, Seferis and Elytis. Already from 1977 onwards I made repeated visits to Athens which brought me closer to those who have been in jail for twenty-two years. They emerged out of that long time in prison still full of resistance and were able to take up practical life again by founding a publishing house. The family lived on Hippocratous and Eleni, the mother from Crete, served her man and two sons. Basically it was a taste of poetic life at the foot of Lycabettou Hill.

With Greece, in particular 'Ancient Greece', is associated wonder leading on to open questions just as philosophy does emerge out of poetry after having taken measure, to establish the 'metron'. It is entailed when looking ahead and in realizing to bring about a just society will be a 'difficult task'. Alone that leads on to measures of man being a mediation between wish and what can be realized.

The poetic observation translated into 'metron' (measures) can be taken further to mean as well appraising with the eye rather than measuring with a meter or yard stick the distance needed. Ernst Schnabel, my neighbor on Knesebeckstreet in Berlin, reaccounted in his book "I and the Kings" how Daedelus, the engineer admonishes his apprentice for trying to measure the right distance between pillars when they were constructing a temple in Athens. No,no, said Daedalus, step back and look through the pillars for when you see "nothingness", then you have the right distance. Still today, when workers put a wall, they hardly use instruments but appraise everything with the eye. That means the walls stand not perfectly straight and exact, but in a humane way they indicate that they have been built by man. That does make itself also felt on how life is being appraised in Greece when compared to a country let us say like Germany where technical efficiency has to be absolutely perfect.

But to come back to wonder, since it is based on an 'experience' which is most difficult to be taught and to communicate at school, a dilemma prevails between what can be learned and what not. Most likely there is needed the Mediterranean landscape to be inspired rather than being stuck merely in some negative problematization about the state of affairs in the world. Wonder is an intellectual experience made explicit by Zbigniew Herbert. I met him at the opening of an exhibition by Mariusz Lukasik at the Kwarz Gallery on Grollmann Street in Berlin 1978, and later we visited him repeatedly during Martial Law. He was the only Polish poet not to have been arrested but as a former lawyer he was constantly the witness of all the intellectuals when they had to stand trial under the Jaruselski regime. Herbert describes best what is implied with such a wonder in his book "A Barbarian comes into the Garden" - a collection of stories about his stay in Greece.


In one of his stories, he re-accounts what happened to him when taking a ferry boat from Piraeus over to the island of Aegina. The ferry passed at one point rocks gushing out of the water like wales coming to the surface. Suddenly Zbiegniew Herbert made the “intellectual” experience as if witnessing once again the 'birth of the earth'. Once such a wonder about how the earth came about, exists in the mind, it is only natural that many more questions and thoughts shall follow. Herbert's poetry reflects this coming up to the surface while he avoided playing any game which would entail a kind of involvement in politics.

Another important source for this early relationship to Greece has been the book by Richard Paye about "Ancient Greece". My mother read it with passion, especially due to her admiration for Pericles. Payne understands how to find bridges between then and now, something Melina Mercouri used as a slogan for her cultural policy when she became Minister of Culture after PASOK won power for the first time in 1981. That book I used when preparing together with "Artists without Frontiers" and Spyros Mercouris the Train exhibition: a journey from Ancient Greece to Modern Athens by Hatto Fischer in May 1997. At that time, I discovered the translations Elytis has made of Sappho.

The Touch Stone Group (1992 - 2002)

When the Touch Stone group constituted itself, among the poets who gathered there was as well Emer Ronan. Her father had been the first Irish Ambassador to Greece after the Junta had fallen in 1974. He knew personally Seamus Heaney, and so an early contact was made to him and the Irish poets. Katerina Anghelaki Rooke translated him once he had won the Nobel Prize.

For Seamus Heaney a beginning for a poem can be a shovel his father used when gardening. Such existence in the rural country site is not merely spell bound due to its meanings, but bound to a real life marked by a special memory thereof. As if poetry needs to be always connected to somebody to be loved, may that be a person within the own family or else a stranger who just happens to pass by and then steps literally into one's life. In reality, it is a search for the muse to obtain some inspiration. (For an interview with HEANEY/ Agallamh leis anseo).

Modern poetry differs from the kind of rural poetry based on really knowing how father used the shovel and which expresses something called 'rudimentary feeling.' By modern, indeed urban poetry tends to stay abstract and engages itself in the construction of meanings. This trend accounts for being cut off from nature ever more.  Much of this modern poetry can be best understood as feelings being projected onto the unknown. Unsure what is reflected back since the wide world is not a mirror, good poetry can be compared with intuitive guesses which illuminate suddenly the dark surrounding and let things see as they are in this universe.

By stepping out into the unknown, poetry creates pillars like for an oil rig, so that a platform for knowledge can be build up. A poem making possible knowledge indicates what precedes first. Even if the image an oil rig may be thought by ecological sensitive people as being highly inappropriate, given not only this dangerous race for resources in sensitive ecological areas, but also the consequences of them exploding and causing huge oil spills like the one in the gulf of Mexico, still no other appropriate metaphor could be found to describe that poetry as intuitive guess gives knowledge a platform to stand on.

Poets might say many other things which are highly inappropriate when said in a straight forward manner. Yet poets differ in one crucial way as their intuition lifts them out of the expected confronting suddenly the unexpected, something Kant had described as a precondition for making an experience, and allows to sense what lies beyond the immediate given. Once rich in imagination, the poet can see what lies ahead, what is to come and what is about to happen, even if still around the corner and therefore cannot be seen as of yet.

Perception is here a figure of speech. Basically in society reference is constantly made to what apparently the majority sees and takes notices of. Although it is claimed all the time to be the newest, in reality is only the same thing as a sense of continuity has to prevail at the same time. So whenever a poet can free himself from bad seeing habits, he will affect an attitude which tends to support a social, equally superficial glance elevating its own importance by ignoring many other things. By contrast, poets pick up small details such as the nails in a bomb going off when children are just about to come round the corner and the van is about to explode. It happened during the IRA bombings as described by Brendan Kennelly in a poem called 'nails', when scrapel bombs which are highly lethal went off (see The Cromwell poems by Brendan Kennelly.)

There have been many different poetic movements. In each specific country they create often the new generations of poets. Some like in Rumania congegrate in Sibiu where the atmosphere seems to be conduicive to writing good poetry even during the Ceausceau rulership. Eugene van Itterbeek, once general secretary of the 'Seven Sleepers' and who linked up with the 'Touch Stone' group of poets here in Athens, has gone to Sibiu where he continues his networking of poets and literary reflections as he has always done when still living in Leuven, Belgium and being close in contact to Van de Brande. It was his introduction which prompted the Fifth Seminar "Cultural Actions for Europe" here in Athens 1994 and which was followed up by the 'Myth of the City' conference in Crete 1995.

Due to the contact with the Flemish community, Joris Duytshaever in Antwerp introduced Hatto Fischer to the essay Poetry and Violence by Brendan Kennelly. The essay is by the way something every poet, and not only, should read. It is not at all self understood that a poem can come so close to violence as man to fire, and not burn itself by ending up endorsing violence due to a sudden transition into a lyrical protest with the intention to be 'political'.

Transition from Touch Stone to Poiein kai Prattein in 2002

Out of the orginal group of poets who had called themselves "Touch Stone", there emerged Poiein kai Prattein in 2002.

In due course, several activities related to poetry unfolded. In conjunction with the Olympic Games held in Athens 2004, the key idea was to bring the attention of poets to what was happening in respect of the Olympic Truce. The war in Iraq continued despite all States, including the United States of America, having signed the Olympic Truce Treaty. The war in Iraq raged since the invasion in March 2003, but before had started already the war in Afghanistan. One pronounced opposition of poets to this war was initiated by Sam Hamill and the "Poets against the War" in the United States. Mary Lathrop, herself playwright in Seattle, proved to be an invaluable bridge in communication. As a result of bringing together different voices under ten different themes, there was published on the website of Poiein kai Prattein under the title:  'Poetry Connection: Poets and the Olympic Truce'.

Poiein kai Prattein took took then a youth delegation to Torino in Feb. 2005 and organised in collaboration with PEACE WAVES a youth festival with the aim to help prepare possibilities to monitor whether or not the Olympic Truce and Human Rights were going to be upheld during the Winter Olympic Games in Torino 2006.Unfortunately the planned youth camp for the Winter Olympic Games was not realised, but the Youth Resolution given to the Italian Parliament was passed on to the United Nations.

Thanks to this youth festival emerged the contact to Kids' Guernica in Japan. A first Kids' Guernica exhibition was organised in Kastelli, Crete in 2006. It was accompanied by one poetic action which included readings by Katerina Anghelaki Rooke, Dostena Laverge, Socrates Kabouropoulos and Hatto Fischer, see Poetic Reading during the Kids' Guernica Exhibition in Kastelli, 2006.

When the ECCM Symposium "Productivity of Culture" and Kids' Guernica exhibition was organised in Athens 2007, Michael D. Higgins gave one evening a poetry reading at Athens Centre. See http://www.productivityofculture.org/

In 2010 the poetic action concentrated on creating a Poetry Centre on Aegina with the enchanted house of Katerina Anghelaki Rooke the focus, archive and departure point for promoting the legacy of especially her poetry. By 2011 Katerina's poem about 'Flow of Destiny' in which she describes water as being imperishable became the inspiration for the action on Rhodes (May 29 - June 4) with Haroula Hadijnicolaou curating the action to familiarize 15 people from different backgrounds to water /wetlands related issues to be faced as an open question of development.

On September 24th 2011, in conjunction with World Poetry Movement, there was held a special reading of 'a poetry of the other' in Athens.

In March 2012 a delegation of poets went in the name of the World Poetry Movement to UNESCO in Paris to meet Katerina Stenou, Director of the Intersectorial Platform for Peace and Non Violence, while before a poetry reading took place at MOTIF on March 21st to observe world poetry day. The delegation went then on to Brussels where they met with Commissioner for Culture and Education, A. Vassiliou and where they gave a poetry reading at Passa Porta. Also during the visit to Antwerp, they joined in poetry readings and discussions about poetry at the Creative Writing Centre after having been at the House of Letters.

Now other poets from other parts of the world convey their wisdom, may that be Anjan Sen in India or else Najet Adouani in Tunisia.

Then, by 2013 contacts were made to Paul Dalli and Gertrude Spiteri in Malta, so that poetry readings became possible in the port of Marsaxlook in both 2013 an 2014. While the first one was called 'Tunes of verses', the second reading has appropriately for the times humanity is going through "In Search for Peace."

In 2015 Kamila Kaminska from the University of Wroclaw invited Hatto Fischer to organise a Poetry Workshop: the Bridge Olawski - Hatto Fischer

Some of the poets who had participated in the conference "Myth of the City", including Liana Sakelliou-Schultz, Socrates Kabouropoulos, Theo Dorgan, Paula Meehan came together when there was organised in Athens, the Irish and Greek Symposium Dec. 2015 when Yiorgos Chouliaras posed the critical question, can poets of today avoid the mistakes made by the poets in-between the Two World Wars e.g. Pound endorsing Mussoloni, Eliot joining the Christian Right and Yeats tending towards a kind of Nationalism with hardly any distinction from Hitler's cult of National Socialism.

When Fernando Rendon and Hatto Fischer met in Eleusis in September 2015 by coincidence, another bridge was found in the form of Fernando inviting Hatto Fischer to join the 26th World Poetry Festival in Medellin, June 18 - 25. A collection of twenty poems under the title "Poetic Responses" shall be presented by Hatto Fischer. See


In November 2015 met the Indian poet and publisher Hemant Divate from Paperwall in Mumbai, India. He made a proposal to the group of poets and writers to produce a READER which shall show how Greece emerges out of the crisis. With Hatto Fischer at the time in Berlin, the group consisted of Anna Arvanitaki, Alexandra Theodoropoulou, Katerina Anghelaki Rooke, Yiorgos Chouliaras, Socrates Kabouropoulos and Stamatis Polenakis. An extension of contributors include Thanos Contargyris, Eleni Panousi, Pyrrhus Mercouris, Tanjana Tsouvelis, Ira Kaliampetsos, George Frangopouls, Dan Georgakas, und noch moeglich andere. Die redaktionelle Linie will aufzeigen den Unterschied zwischen der Art und Weise wie Griechen sich selber und ihr Land in dieser Zeit der Krise und denjenigen, die von aussen quasi hinein schauen, wahrnehmen. Voraussichtlich wird der READER gegen August fertig gestellt sein.


From peace murals to poetic responses

The 'House of Poetry' is an integral part of the peace mural The War is Over. Painted in 2005, it was the first action of Poiein kai Prattein in reference to Kids' Guernica founded in 1995 to remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


  "War is over"                                      Peace mural of Poiein kai Prattein, 2005

The name of the mural was derived out of a specific story brought about as the painting unfolded. The two to three year olds stayed along the edges of the canvas to paint snails, fences, little houses etc. while the seven to nine year olds danced first to an ever wilder music and once they fell down, got the idea to paint their own bodies. The amazing this is that ouf this coincidental down-fall, there emerged a pattern of always four figures being together. The quartet to the right seem to initiate the start and flew up into the air. The quartet in the middle showed again what "togetherness" means for children: the holding of hands. The four to the left form a linear line and indicate not only the clapping of hands in an Indian style, but they are also painted in rainbow colours. But then something happened. At first unnoticed, the then six-teen year old Maya Fischer who did not want to mix with the younger children, she painted in the left corner such a sad figure, that it set a sharp contrast to what the other children had painted, namely happy figures dancing over the canvas. The children were perplexed. They asked themselves what happened to bring out such sadness. When seeing this figures, the kids huddled together and deliberated on how to respond to that sad figure. Finally they decided to paint a figure floating down to the sad one at the bottom. More so the figure floating down can be seen to hold in the hand a letter. The amazing thing is that the letter contains one simple message: "The war is over".

Both the response by the children who were seven to nine years of age at that time and the equation of peace with happiness was painted on a canvas in August 2005 underlines and expressesd something, but before going into that some further details about why this action was initiated in the first place has to be explained. Hatto Fischer had learned in the meantime more about Kids' Guernica in Japan, and at the same time, he was informed that the very atelier where Picasso had painted Guernica in Paris has been restored and can be used for workshops, meetings and other actions. The director of the atelier was in particular concerned about the peace dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis.

Thus the mural was designed to be Poiein kai Prattein's contribution to the Kids' Guernica festival held in Ubud, Bali in 2005. The festival itself wanted to celebrate ten years of existence of Kids' Guernica since founded in memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1995. The simple idea behind all peace murals is to let children and youth paint their responses to the question of war and peace on a canvas which has the same size as Picasso's Guernica (7,8 x 3,5 m).


                  Child in front of a sad figure               Kastelli, Crete 2006

The children who painted "The War is over" were all amazing, insofar as they did not succumb to fear, but set something invaluable against the sad figure. It was not merely an important message, for the message itself contained an utopian wish. Aristotle had said that the wish or επιθυμώ would allow insights into what goals are worthwhile to strive for. He identified this to be "theory", so often negated by those who have become impatient due to current circumstances, and wish only to see actions as if that could fulfil their dreams. Rightly so, Habermas argues violence prevails where there is no "theory".

To realize something peacefully, that is with non violent means, a different perception of human reality is required. Engagement has to be based on a dialogue between theory and practice, which have to be mediated as Kant showed by a practical judgement based on an ethical vision of mankind.

Problematic in this context is that philosophers think practical judgement cannot be taught. Like the experience of a wonder about the existence of the earth can never be explained to anyone who has not experienced that at first hand, so the search for poetic responses to the real challenges in this world manifests itself in really interesting forms of expressions, from paintings to poetry and further on to philosophical reflections as to what lessons can be derived out of these practical experiences.

To try and to explain how the world came about and indeed what existence is all about, that require more than immediate experiences. The futility of those who reduce life as to what makes only sense, and equate it with only war being waged all the time, that means their perception tends to be ruled by conflict and enemy pictures. They see not the wonder of the earth, but only that negative attractions of opposites provoke new wars. That this leads to a 'poverty of experience' is more than obvious.

Still, many neglect their dreams or their utopian wish as explained by Brendan Kennelly. The poet points out in his introduction to his epic poem Judas that children are taught from day one at school to hate the traitor, i.e. Judas. In so doing, they learn to convert initial prejudices into such convictions (absolute beliefs) which cannot be challenged any more by someone else, even of an alternative, more valid opinion. As a result, they go against any democratic principle of freedom of speech. That entails the Right to express your own opinion, provided it can be challenged by another opinion, so as to make possible 'public truth' being discussed in 'public space'. However, they overlook something when they submit themselves to the 'logic of conversion' making themselves into traitors whose chief characteristic is an over simplified world view. For they have betrayed their own dreams which they had when still a child. These were powerful dreams conjured up and ready to be set against anything threatening. In that sense they practiced when still young what Katerina Anghelaki Rooke has called in her essay The poetics of life versus the poetics of death - Katerina Anghelaki Rooke (1994) the ability to create myths at the spur of the moment, and thereby fly over dangers.

Certainly children know how to respond when their lives stand under the threat of war or any other immanent threat like the Holocaust. When "Art from the Holocaust" was shown at the Historical Museum in Berlin, 26 Januar - 3 April 2016, amongst the 100 art works by 100 artists of which 50 perished in the concentration camps, there were displayed in printed out form four poems, amonst which one by a thirteen year old who perished in Auschwitz 1944 can exemplify the practicality of a wish to be able to fly over the danger.


Abraham (Abramek) Koplowicz

(1930, Lodz - 1944, Lager Auschwitz-Birkenau)



Wenn ich zwanzig Jahre alt bin,

werde ich in einem motorisierten Vogel sitzen

und zum Ende des Weltraums aufsteigen.

Ich werde fliegen, ich werde mich emporschwingen

hoch ueber eine Welt so schoen,

hinein in den Himmel.

Die Wolke wird meine Schwester sein,

der Wind mein Bruder.

Ich werde fliegen, ich werde schweben ueber Fluesse und Meere.

Ich werde den Euphrat und Nil bestauen,

die Sphinx und Pyramiden bewundern

im alten Land der Goettin Isis.

Ich werde ueber die gewaltigen Niagara-Faelle gleiten,

und die Waerme der Sahara-Sonne in mich aufsaugen.

Ich werde ueber die von Wolken bedeckten Gipfel Tibets aufsteigen,

ueber das geheimnisvolle magische Land der Hindus.

Dann, befreit von der Hitze der Sonne,

werde ich zum Nordpol fliegen,

ueber die grosse Insel der Kaengurus schweben,

und weiter ueber die Ruinen von Pompeji.

Von dort werde ich das Heilige Land ansteuern,

wo unser Bund geschlossen wurde.

Ich werde sogar die beruehmte Heimat Homers erreichen,

und so beeindruckt sein von der Schoenheit dieser Welt.

Ich werde mich emporschwingen in den Himmel.

Die Wolke wird mir Schwester sein,

der Wind mir Bruder.


geschrieben im Ghetto Lodz, 1943

Uebersetzt aus dem Polnischen von Zwi Sztajinic



Abraham (Abramek) Koplowicz

(1930, Lodz - 1944, Auschwitz - Birkenau Camp)



When I will be 20 years old

In a motorized bird I'll sit,

And to the reaches of space I'll rise.

I will fly, I will float to the beautiful faraway world

And skywards I will soar.

The cloud my sister will be

The wind is brother to me.

I will fly. I will float over rivers and seas.

I will marvel at the Euphrates and Nile.

I will gaze at the Sphinx and Pyramids

In the goddess Isis' ancient land.

I will glide over the mighty Niagra Falls,

And soak up the warmth of the Sahara's sun.

Over the cloud-covered Tiberan peaks will I asend.

Above the mysterious magic land of the Hindus.

And when extricated from the sun's heat,

I will tke wing to the Artic North.

and I will whir above the giant Kangaroo isle,

and then over the ruins of Pompeij.

From there I'll set my sights to the Holy Land,

where our Convenant was given.

I will even reach illustrious Homer's country,

and will be so amazed by the beauty of the world.

To the heavens I will take off.

The cloud my sister will be

The wind is brother to me.


Lodz Ghetto, 1943

translated from Polish by Sarah Honig





Insofar feelings are to be trusted when going forward with sensitive words, poets make possible the stepping out of silence. But it is also a question of how future generations perceive what they hear from previous ones. Most of the time many generations may end up but repeating the same experience made of being lost in anything but true peace making efforts.

This sense of being a part of a lost generations is expressed in a poem by Gerhard Zwerenz. He was born in 1925, so that when Second World War came, he went as a young soldier to the front and there ended up being a prisoner of war in Russia.

Gesang der Helden


Am Abend, wenn die Flüsse sterben und die Himmel sich

heiser geschrien haben

wenn die Verräter belohnt sind

und die Mörder zur Party eilen

an solchen Abenden zünden wir uns eine Zigarette an

und deklamieren:


Meine Generation ist angefüllt bis an die Ränder mit

Kopfstößen und Tiefstößen

Die Tischreden des Ecclesiastes wären unser einziges


kannten wir sie.

Wir besteigen mit gültigen Billetts versehen

Die verregneten Gespensterbahnen, begeben uns vor

Ort, wo schon Urahn, Ahn, Großmutter und Kind

ihr Gedärm opferten.

Unsere Seelen, hoch in der Kausche, hängen

vorschriftsmäßig gebündelt. Am Freitag die

Lohntüten platzen vor metaphysischem Gestank.


Ja meine Generation kann alles und alles

auf keuchenden Straßenbahnen in Unterhosen


in Walhalla dem Hypochonder Zeus einen

Zahn ziehen

Marmelade lecken vom Altar kaiserlicher Kokotten


Meine Generation kann höllische Lieder pfeifen

statt dreier Kreuze ihren Namen schreiben

mit Messer und Gabel Gräber auswerfen

mit Messer und Gabel Gräber füllen

mit Messer und Gabel

zum Nachtisch

einen Kontinent verschlingen.


All dies lernt bei uns eine verlorene

Generation von der nächsten verlorenen


Danach fahren wir in blechernen Limousinen

Und lustig flattern im Wind unsre



Die Krawatten der verlorenen Generationen


Und wir sagen:

Mir soll keiner kommen

mit Seidenpapier zwischen den Lippen und

Blumen im Maul

Mir soll keiner kommen mit gekrümmten


Mir soll keiner kommen und sagen

Bete an meinem Sarg

Da sag ich:

Ich lass mich im Hemde verbrennen!

Dann fahr ich weiter. Im vierten Gang. Ein

Schmuckstück der sechsten verlorenen Generation.

Ein Held der westlichen Welt –

The playboy of the western world –


Manchmal erinnert sich einer von uns seines


Manchmal redet einer daher von der Jungfrau Maria

von Santa Fee von irgendwelchen Heiligen und

anderen guten Geschäften

Manchmal richtet einer einen kleinen Baum her

Denn kleine Bäume sind dankbar

Da hängen wir bunte Glitzerkugeln

In die kleinen Bäume

Und zwischen uns stehen welche die murren

wären die Bäume größer

wären die Äste auch stärker

murren sie und man könnte stumme Neger dran hängen


Wir aber trällern das Lied der sechsten

verlorenen Generation und besteigen

unsre blitzenden Blechgehäuse

und meinen es sei sowieso alles sinnlos

und geben Gas und


im vierten fünften sechsten oder Rückwärtsgang


mal wieder einen tot oder wenigstens


Song of the heroes


In the evening, when the rivers are dying and

the sky has

screamed itself hoarse

when the traitors have been rewarded

the murders rush to the party

on such evenings we light up

a cigarette

and declare:


My generation is filled up

to the brim with

head bunts and blows below the belt.

The dinner address of the Ecclestics were our



which we knew.

We board with valid tickets

the rained out spooky traines, go


the place where already ancient ancestors, ancestors, granmother and child

had sacrificed their intestines.

Our souls, high up in the (kausche), hang

according to regulations bundled up. On Friday

the salary bags burst due to metaphysical stink.


Yes my generation can do everything and drive everything on breathless streetcars

in underwear

to pull in Valhalla the hypochondria Zeus

a tooth

lick marmalade off the altar of imperial



My generation can whistle outstanding songs

instead of three crosses write their name

with knives and forks dig our graves

with knives and forks fill graves

with knives and forks

as desert

devour a continent.


All this learns in our country one lost

generation from the next lost


Afterwards we drive in tin limousines

and merrily there flap in the wind our



The ties of lost generations.


And we say:

No one should come to me

with silk paper in between the lips and

flowers in the mouth.

No one should come to me with bent

slogans of wisdom

No one should come to me and demand

pray at my coffin

There I say:

let me burn to death in my shirt!

Then I continue to drive on. In the fourth gear. A

precious piece of the sixth lost


A hero of the Western world -

The playboy of the western world -


Sometimes one of us remembers his


Sometimes mumbles one something about the virgin Maria

about Santa Fee about some holy one and

other profitable businesses

Sometimes someone decorates a small tree

for small trees are thankful

There we hang colourful sparkling balls

on the small trees.

And among us there stand some who murmur

if only the trees were taller

if only the branches were stronger

and they murmur that one can hang from them niggers


However we shout out the song of the sixth

lost generation and climb into

our glittery tin vehicles

and are of the opinion all is anyhow senseless

and give gas and


in the fourth fifth sixth or reverse gear


once again someone dead or at least



Translated by Hatto Fischer


After the Second World War, Alexander Mitscherlich would say Germans cannot trust themselves or others again, as long as they do not go through a period of mourning over these grave loss of a sense for humanity. It requires more than compassion to resist the absurd command to shot a Jew or to massacre millions of them in concentration camps, but it happened. What followed that war was a silence. Parents at home did not speak about what really took place during that war. The general excuse was they did not see the Jews disappear.

One novel poetic response during that early post-war period was Hagelstange's "Die Verschuetteten" - the buried. Six soldiers had wandered into a bunker and discovered an unbelievable amount of food, flower, wine. They thought to be in heaven, but then came airplanes which dropped their bombs precisely over the bunker and buried them alive. The days closed-in amounted to being fretted about survival in a strange way. Hagelstange describes small details such as the use of flower instead of earth when one of the six had died. In the end, only two survived but when they were discovered and brought back into daylight the fifth died as well like miners risk to do when re-surfacing after having been too long under the earth. The poem outlines what happens to those who mix desire for a good life with a strong dose of oblivion, for the six trapped in the bunker did not know that the war had ended. Mentally speaking, they tried to survive as they had done as ordinary soldiers, that is disciplined, well ordered and yet in another way completely pathetic since easily exposed by their own whimsical wishes may that be for a car or just day off from war.

Other poetic responses could be cited with Guenter Grass having tried to write poetry with always the color 'grey' in mind, but once he met Paul Celan, he was convinced it was better for him to write novels rather than poems. It was a strange transition but it brought about the 'Tin Drum' while only much later in his life Grass confessed that he had been as an eighteen year old a young soldier in the SS. His silence is indicative of what was kept a secret for such a long time after 1945. The secret was only then revealed when it did not really matter or would alter the fate of the person.

But to come back to this remark by Mitscherlich about trust only to be regained through mourning, poets share with all other people this need to trust feelings. Hence they explore together with their audiences all possibilities to find that trust again, but if it is not linked to a search of truth, they will not move within an open culture of self-understanding based on trusting the other. Once trust does become an intuition to base things on, then it makes visible to respond sincerely as to what is happening in the world.

Hatto Fischer

Athens 20.6.2012 (1st revised 30.8.2014, 2nd revision 7.6.2016)

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