The Poetry of Rainer Hesse
I have read Rainer Hesse’s
poems today. It prompted me to translate “this and that.” A conscious
choice, determined by what I thought was his affinity to a poet I care
for very much – Cid Corman. The short poems I translated are so “unassuming”
in their seeming “simplicity,” and at the same time embody such instances
of complete awareness, each a balanced musical “whole” – ein harmonisches
Ganzes voller Musik, that I was taken in by them immediately.
Perhaps Rainer Hesse has
said more concisely what his poetry is about that I am able to. It
seems to me that it seeks to explore frontiers – the frontiers of language,
the frontiers and the fragility of existence.
In a poem, entitled Granica
(a Polish word for frontier), he writes:
The essential borders
are those of language
and of comprehension.
Not just of the words
but also, of the emotions
which inhabit them
and which accompany them.
The rhythm, the sound, the intonation
– it is all part of such a text. A song, almost – that addresses our thirst
to understand and our desire to be compassionate. In East Asia where Corman
lived for much of his life (and where he died), Kuanyin or Kannon, as she
is called in Japan, is the embodiment of compassion. For nature, of which
we are a part. As a metaphorical incarnation of the Buddha, she also embodies
understanding, or – as the believers say – enlightenment. As a man of this
secular 21st century, it seems as appropriate to me to invoke those who,
like William Blake and André Breton, addressed reason and the emotion
when they told us that “fear and hope are vision,” and that what matters
is twofold: CHANGER LE MONDE (“change the world!”) and CHANGER LA
VIE (“change your life!”).
Subtly, Peter Hesse’s poetry is
subversive enough, in its gentle ways, to embody these goals, too. Questioning
certainties, it is true.