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.

Dec. 2012

Andreas Weiland


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