For Friederike Mayröcker
June 7, 2021
Yours, I think, shall forever be, for me, inextricable from a certain song of snow and wander. Linden trees, and oak, both bare and again aflower. Leaves. Longing. Bluish evenings and the hushed echo of trains. From certain pain and painting, from certain names. Beuys, Scardanelli, Tàpies. From, as you wrote in one of your books, Berlin asparagus spears and May. And hope. From excitement, from hue, from haunting. From thresholds. From wonder. From independence and imagination. From beauty. From language and language’s, which is to say, life’s, possibilities. Ultimately, from certain youth.
We first met in Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris’s anthology Poems for the Millennium, and I was immediately enchanted. But as I was in the United States, finding your books in German was difficult. It would have to wait. Later, for a number of uninteresting reasons, or maybe for no real reasons at all, I moved to Berlin. The city was dark. There was snow and it was cold, and I was young and unemployed and sleeping on a kitchen floor. I didn’t want to do much but read. And maybe fall in love. At that time there was a bookshop tucked away beneath the railway lines off the Museum Island, it very well may have been connected to Humboldt University somehow, I don’t know, maybe you even knew it. The first time I walked in I asked the woman if they had anything you’d written. In the slightly conspiratorial tone of the old bookseller she said that, no, she didn’t think so, but, well, maybe, just maybe, there might be a copy of your latest. A slim volume, she said. But beautiful. And all of a sudden I found The Communicating Vessels in my hands.
Friederike Mayröcker, blackhaired blackclad soaring myth & whisper,
so-called Grande Dame of experimental Austrian writing, I was to learn, Grande Dame of the Word, you are Real
/ birdsong begin, take wing /
I purchased your book and promised to return.
And so, back out on the street, book in hand, between evening’s first bells and flurries, within winter’s indigo, I began. And have yet to stop.
Moved namely moving to be able to move one must oneself be moved etc. If there were one line out of all of yours I have read over the course of these last almost twenty years this is among the ones I return to most. As I have said before, there are very few writers who will truly change the way you approach reading and writing, indeed change your reading and writing, and whose works will continue to teach you in surprising ways, year after year, throughout your life. There are also very few writers you will remember where you were, when you were, how you were, upon first reading. It is no exaggeration to write that you, Friederike Mayröcker, have been one of them for me. And yet, and most importantly, what I would like to say to you today, a shimmering day in early June, greened earth alive with song and sun and beauty, a beauty with which you taught me to engage more fully, is this: in no uncertain terms my life would have been much poorer for never having encountered you and your work. And for this all I can say is thank you.