Singing Hacks In NYC. Or Something Like That

Can a poem be inspirational?

The inspiration addressed here is not what you think. In fact, I’m a little embarrassed to even write this down. And that’s not because I don’t actually care much for poetry. I mean, I like things that are poetic but “poems”…? My adversity to poetry has something to do with it having been forced down my throat by silly college professors whose only interest was tenure – or Marie Anne Willingness, the college-attending Hooters girl that never missed a class of Eng 101. The catalyst in my hate of poetry was the study of the poem The Red Wheelbarrow, by William Carlos Williams (1883-1963). Do any Germans out there know this poem? No? Since I was only “matriculated” (we in the States use easier words like “registered”) at a German University for about a year I can make no claim to knowing anything about what it is you Germans actually study when it comes to Anglistic. So I’ll just assume here for posterity’s sake that at least one or two Germans know this poem. Or am I way off base here? No matter. The poem that turned me off to poetry went something like this:

so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white
chickens

Be assured. There are so many U.S. college papers falsely written about this poem that if the clock could be turned back and the trees replaced I’m sure that the likes of Jürgen (kiss my ass) Trittin would celebrate on account his dimwit Greens would have one less thing to blame for the lie that is “global warming”. And maybe then I might even get to drink cola out of can again.

Having said that, will Hacks’ poetry (for me) rise above the rest? At the least I can say this: Unlike Williams’ poem, one of Peter Hacks’ poems was recently sung by a bunch of drunk New Yorkers – in German.

Since that’s such a hard thing to picture, let me put this whole thing about poetry another way…

Krapp.

I manage every once a once to read a poem. Due to my commitment to Hacks, though, I think that after my recent vacation I have easily met my yearly quota of poetry for 2008, 2009 and perhaps 2010. Luckily it was a krapp vacation – and krapp is a great way to pass the time.

Yes. My vacation was krapp. It all started with the hinflug (departure) and nasty German Lufthansa employees who think that service is spelled with a ‘K’ – you know, as in Kommunism. After fighting and cursing with LH check-in counter idiots at Frankfurt, we finally got our Mile & More tickets. Steaming and sweaty and hating the German corporate world that just barely copies and betters the American corporate world… We boarded that flight hoping that there weren’t too many spiteful LH employees that would radio their colleagues abroad to tell them to make our return flight just as difficult. (And do you think that one LH arrogant employee misfit warned us about the impending strike? Of course we knew about it via the news but that’s not the point. These morons should stand up for the silly little games they play in a world of diminishing returns and unspoken population control. Of course, we did eventually get on the plane. Like Germany itself, there was plenty of beer and wine, no elbow room and each seat had its own video monitor. So much technology and industrial prowess and so little to show for it. Yeah, let’s all watch TV on our flights to Neverland – the country that has annexed us all.)

I won’t bore you with the details of my vacation. Let’s just leave it to the fact that I am a partner in a relationship. I live with a German who has a career. Said German wanted to go shopping (in NYC) so, since I don’t (really) have a “career”, and since I’ve been delegated to expatriation because of a few bad choices when I was young, I’m something like a (worst)writing luggage career. Life would/could be good as a luggage carrier if it weren’t for bad-mood, sour-puss Germans working for Lufthansa. Yes. They even made our return flight krappy!

Anyway. Traveling across the Atlantic on a Lufthansa 747 that was on “strike” is not a good beginning or end to a krapp vacation. Seriously. I mean everything about this vacation was krapp. Visiting my friends was krapp, visiting my parents was krapp, and the visit to my sister was even more krapp. The whole idea about this short and intense visit across the Atlantic also included a bit of free-time and relaxation for my partner. But my partner was totally stressed out because, well, everything was krapp. And since all of that was krapp let’s just end it all with a flight home to a place that is full of a bunch of krappy pseudo-Kommunists with sour-puss faces and too much Green politicking – who all think that, along with state-sponsored vacations, strikes are a fucking birthright.

Oh yeah. The Poetry.

Yet, not all was lost. While a bunch of sour-puss German stewardesses and stewards spitefully served non-LH catered food, I was able to get in some good reading on the plane. As the deteriorating flight service corresponded perfectly with the rise and fall of our altitude, I thought to myself: I kind of like Hacks’ poetry. It reminds me of something between Bukowski’s work and the worn-out leather shoes a convicted rapist uncle of mine gave me when my German mother’s third mistaken husband took me to a West Virginia jail to meet his brother. So I read and read and allowed the multi-culti striking Kommunist crew of LH403 fill my tummy with red wine. (At least they’re good for something, eh? I think it was a French Merlot.) Then I enjoyed the vegetarian Italian noodles that the crew apologetically said were made in the USA and were left over from the previous flight. (The best “strike” noodles I’ve ever had!) After all the trash was finally collected I continued reading from the books that – thank Allah! – US airport authorities haven’t decided to forbid for carry-on. My reading agenda for the flight was a book about the origin of earthly hydrocarbons in the context of geopolitical power mongering and Peter Hacks’ pocket-sized book of poems: “Diesem Vaterland Nicht Meine Knochen”.

And so… I discovered the poem: “Couplets Der Verdammten Könige”.

But…

I had to ask my German Abitur educated partner sitting next to me on LH403: what the fuck does “Couplets” mean? I hate it when I come across German words I don’t know and there’s no Duden around. (Usually these kind of words aren’t originally German.) I guess that’s why I have a partner with an Abitur (and an MBA)! Seriously, a German partner with Abitur is easier to carry on a flight than one of them thick, yellow Duden books.

Don’t get me wrong. Even with all my bitchin’ & moanin’ about Germany, I like reading German. In fact, I can’t get enough of it. I think it’s almost fun. It’s especially fun when I’m in my home country and people think it’s part of their good-citizen duty to question other people reading something in a foreign language. Seriously. Would you believe that there are signs around NYC telling people to “Be on the look-out”. But the signs don’t really tell people what to be on the look-out for. So I guess we all have to just guess.

Anyway. Here’s a transcript of me conversing with someone while visiting New York City and reading Peter Hacks’ poetry:

Scene: sitting outside of a New York City bar in cheap wannabe garden chairs. It’s a hot July afternoon and we just finished shopping after discovering that you can almost get stuff for free because most NYC retailers get a kick out of people toting Euros. (The exchange rate hit €1 = $1.57!!!) I am sitting with partner who is checking Blackberry. I’m reading from a small red book with bright yellow letters on the cover. New York Person, probably a Wall Street broker, sits down at the table next to me and after a pause questions what I’m reading because he’s on the look out for terrorists and/or sex.

New York Person: “… So, you think German is a fun language, uh? You’d better be careful. Sounds kind of Arabic.”
Me Person: “Really?”
New York Person: “Didn’t some of those 9/11 guys come from Germany?”
Me Person: “No, they came from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. But just like me, they were able to matriculate in a German university.”
New York Person: “Ma-trick-you… what?”
Me Person: “Sorry. That’s just another way of saying that one is enrolled as a student at a University.”
New York Person: “Oh. You know, you sound like an American.”
Me Person: “That’s because I am one.”
New York Person: “Then why are you reading Arabic?”
Me Person: “I’m reading German, sir.”
New York Person: “Say. Didn’t we kick Germany’s ass twice in a war or something?”
Me Person: “Indeed, we did. And ever since we haven’t quite figured out what do with all the oil that we won.”

I ended up reading Couplets Der Verdammten Könige out loud to this guy. Eventually a couple of his broker friends, all in fancy suits, joined in and they all bought me and my partner more alcohol – to prove that their dollars were actually worth something – and perhaps with the hopes that I would invite them to Oktoberfest. When I explained what the poem was about – and the fact that it was actually a “song” they got excited and wanted to sing it. So we did. They all churned up what remained from Germ101 at college and off we went. Really. It was the best part of the whole vacation. It almost made me (us) forget about the upcoming return flight on Kommunist serviced Lufthansa.

Rant on.

Tommi