On: A Romance to Night by Georg Trakl

I was drawn to the poem because I was drawn to the author. It was difficult for me to find a poem with which I felt I could connect. These are not the poems with which I find I easily connect. I may read, and I may listen, and I am certainly willing to accept the trauma, but perhaps there is too much distance, or at the very least a wall built up within my head that is restricting me from feeling a sense of connect. Georg Trakl’s short bio certainly allowed a connection, a sense of trauma that was common enough that I felt something. I turned to his poem A Romance to Night because the title is unfathomably disturbing in its juxtaposition to the sentences directly above:

After attempting suicide himself, Trakl was placed under observation in a psychiatric ward, where he died from a self-administered overdose of cocaine. In the “East” and “Grodek” (his last poem) were written while Trakl was at the front in Galicia.

A Romance to Night shows me a montage of lonely characters, all who exist in an atmosphere dominated by isolation and utter sadness. The first stanza, for me, is about the life span. I don’t see the “lonely man” and the boy who wakes as two separate beings. I see the lonely man finding solace in the night, reflecting on his life. His reflections awaken his inner child, though the hopeful sense that image evokes certainly is fleeting as the next line reads, “His gray face wasting away into the moon.” The second stanza, for me, represents a misunderstood image of the woman in the face of the tragedy of war. While the man in the stanza above her reflects on his life span, the woman is imprisoned, perhaps due to her dim-wits, and her focus is on lamenting over no longer/or never being in love. We see a murderer laughing and for me this instantly shows the Trakl’s grim state of mind. He is a witness to human nature and he allows the reader to see his perception through juxtaposed images, such as a laughing murderer and a wounded nun.

Melopoeia comes through, for me, in the repetition of sounds. Consonance is common, for example, “A half-witted woman with loose hair is weeping.” Another use of the “w” sound is found in the final stanza, “The dead paint silence on the walls / With their white hands. / The one sleeping continues to whisper.”

Logopoeia is difficult for me with this poem, and this group of poems, because the poetry I read and write is so different in how it approaches the dance of intelligent language. I think perhaps being a person immersed in contemporary (I use that word in two senses) poetry is going to make it a bit difficult for me, oddly enough, to get in touch with the logopoeia one sees in a poetics of witness.

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1 Comment

January 14, 2013 · 2:13 am

One response to “On: A Romance to Night by Georg Trakl

  1. Kellie,
    I am intrigued by your comment on feeling disconnected from the “trauma” the poems included in Forche’s Against Forgetting try to capture. I like the honesty of your comment, and I bet you are not alone in feeling this, myself included. Perhaps it’s not just “trauma” that these poems of “witness” try to capture? And perhaps we need to think a bit more about the position the poems put us in? And is it the poems that put us in this position, or we ourselves? Do we expect ourselves to respond to poems about such subjects as war and genocide with a particular attitude? And what precisely is that attitude?
    So, your blog poses lots of questions in my mind: what responses does a poem like Trakl’s appear to evoke?

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