In writing this poem I wanted to avoid my own personality as much as possible, and write something impersonal (but not inhuman) and direct. I wanted language that explained itself as much as possible, and could, indeed, be easily translated. Hence the use of repetition with some variation.I feel over-awed by the horrifying treatment this brave man, doing his best for his country, has been subjected to. There are references which require more knowledge of Isaac Dawit, and Eritrea than can easity be assumed: that's inescapable in delaing with a speciffc person in a specific place. I decided to approach the poem as an ode, like a Pindaric Olympic Victory Ode (but cutting the crap) — hence the structure of two differing voices (strophe/antistrophe, in this poem repeated, resolved finally in a brief epode. The voices allowed in some consciousness of language: the free language of debate: democratic, journalistic, multilingual (the regime seems to insist rigidly on the language of the largest language group, Tigrinya), the language of comrades discussing the future together. I list the names of the publications with journalists imprisoned as a result of G-15 Letter. The other list is, in the sequence they are used in the document the various Eritrean words employed in the horrifying UNHRC Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, which relate to the regime and its practices. It's a disgusting vocabulary.
Eritrea and the Imprisonment of Dawit Isaac gives my account of Eritrea, its long and heroic fight for freedom from Ethiopia, and the hole it has been led into by its leadership. Dawit Isaac published material opposing the direction the regime was taking; hence his imprisonment. I don't see claims of historical rule by Ethipian emperors, dating back centuries, are relevant for today's world. Imperilism is always wrong! A new identity was created within the region colonised by the Italians (and briefly administered by us, don't forget!) — an indentity confirmed by the people's treatment by Ethiopia. Long live Eritrea! May it recover its original revolutionary spirit of hope and comradeship! Free Dawit Isaac! (And all the rest!)
Calum Hazell's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Jungftak: a journal for prose-poetry, Lunar Poetry and Datableed. In February 2016 he exhibited visual work at St. John's College, University of Oxford, as part of a project on Charles Sanders Peirce's semiotic. He regularly reads at Writers Forum Workshop — New Series and is a member of the Centre for Contemporary Poetry (Contempo) research group. He can be contacted via email@example.com.
• Non Juan
Non Juan is one of Amos's finest achievements — he carries it off with appropriate bravado and humour, and no whimsy. It moves from a version of his autobiography to evocations of Berlin low life, tailing off rather, and stopped rather than finished. Amos's talent was not in structure, but in detail and fine grain effects. On the site are the opening of Non Juan in Worksongs, and a possible ending to Part II part only in Worksongs, which ends up in German.
• Make Shift Press
Make Shift or Makeshift Press was a project of Amos's round about 2006, after a visit to India indicated the possibility of cheap printing and book production, and at a period when he had very sympathetic treatment from Haringay Mental Health. It was to publish poetry by people with mental illness, as poetry, not therapy or witness or survival manual. Only one book seems to have been produced, woss teh damage, djinn?, a short collection of prose and poetry by Amos, some of which is very raw fantasy. It doesn't seem to have been distributed. MSS by other people were in a state of preparation at the time of his death. I've published here two accounts by him of the project, in interestingly differing voices: Prospectus for Makeshift Press in Worksongs, which he had entitled "programmatic apology for the existence, dissemination and production of mad poetry", and the more bread-&-butter Article for Equilibrium, written for a magazine for people with mental health conditions.
• The End of Mourning in Worksongs
This is a very short, quite lyrical prose piece.
Will Self was indeed a class-mate and friend of Amos's at University College School — Amos's father was the Hebraic scholar Joseph Weiss, author of Studies in East European Jewish Mysticism and Hasidism, and Director of the Institute of Jewish Studies at University College London, who committed suicide while Amos was a child. Erna Weiss is rather scathing of Self — a bad influence I think she feels. The emphases given to certain words relate to Amos's interest in hypertext, and a project of his to put his writing online with working links. The text was one of the last written before his death.
• tinfoot in Worksongs
This was almost certainly the last poem written by Amos before his suicide.
Sascha Anderson was a poet and cultural organiser, who helped create the underground Prenzlauer Berg artistic scene in East Berlin in the 1980s, based on a self-publishing post-punk aesthetic. He defected to the West in 1986 — but was revealed by Wolf Biermann in 1991 as an active agent of the Stasi even as he set up this alternative art scene. Anderson's "autobiographical novel", Sascha Anderson (Dumont, 2002) admits with neither guilt nor shame, but nearer self-justification. Other books include Jeder Satellit hat einen Killersatelliten: Gedichte 1971-1981 (Edition qwert zui opü, 1997) & Jewish Jetset (Editon Galrev, 1991). (February 2010)
Johannes Jansen first trained as an engraver and then studied advertising art. His very short prose texts have a somnambulant quality and are influenced by Georg Trakl and Wolfgang Borchert. Perception and reflection are inseparable in these works. In 1996, Jansen was awarded the Carinthia Prize at the Ingeborg Bachmann Competition for Dickicht.Anpassung. In 1997, he received the Schiller Foundation award. Jansen's latest works are atem holen, immerhin (2007, Karin Kramer Verlag), Nicht hin..s.eh.en, Sequenzen (2007, Satyr Verlag) and im keinland is schönerland stumm (kookbooks 2007) [Text from poesiefestival.] (February 2010)
Monika Rinck is a poet and essayist, a member of the action group 'Das Lemma', and an actress in the fictional docu-soap Le Pingpong d'Amour. Her work includes fumbling with matches: Herumfingern an Gleichgesinnten (SuKuLTuR, 2005), Verzückte Distanzen: Gedichte (Zu Klampen, 2004), Begriffsstudio 1996-2001 (edition sutstein, 2001), and Neues von der Phasenfront (b_books, 1998). She currently works for INFORADIO in Berlin and teaches at the Religious Studies Department of the Free University Berlin. She also translates English and American poetry into German. She has work available online on Poetry International Web (with translation), her internet-based work in progress begriffstudio and on neuedichte.de, and can be heard reading her work (with texts & translations of the texts by Alistair Noon also available) on Lyrikline. Translations of her poetry have also been published in Shearsman. I would like to thank Monika for her help in getting these translations published. (February 2010)
"Todtnauberg" and "Hörreste, Sehreste". Todtnauberg was the location of Heidegger's chalet in the Black Forest, where Celan visted him in 1966, the poem giving Celan's response to the meeting. The whole sequence was written while Celan was under or recovering from psychiatric care (a situation Amos knew well). Erna Weiss, his mother, thinks it important that Amos's father, the scholar Joseph Weiss, was, like Celan, a German-speaking (not Yiddish-speaking) Jew from the Bukovina, the intensely culturally mixed province at the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, "beyond Transylvania", and they would have spoken a similar German.
Amos translated the whole text of Hauspostille, the coherent and structured collection of poetry Brecht published in 1927. It is not sufficiently known in this country, where his poetry tends to be read from selected or collected translations, which don't give the clear structure of the work. It is a parody of German devotional literature (whether Catholic or Protestant): Eric Bentley's translation is titled Manual of Piety, Amos used the snappy Home Herald. Brecht's wonderful and deeply felt cynicism appealed at some stages to Amos greatly (though there were other religious impulses through his life), and it's typical that of all Brecht's work, it should be this he worked on. Though he does not seem to have worked on Brecht's pays, he did do a lot of translation of Heiner Müller's plays.
• Thymos in Worksongs
This is the first of three short poems very typical of Amos's best writing. There are variations in the form and the extent to which it is articulated through a felt subjective voice, but typically displays a gorgeously wide vocabulary strung along where discourse breaks into parataxis.
• Naturena in Worksongs
• poem from a sequence called Elegan in Worksongs
This poem is from a sequence written when Amos was living with his second wife, Nuala, and their children, in a small town in Ireland.
• Spirit of my descendants in Worksongs
Similar psychological material to the opening of Non Juan is used here, more rawly. Heiner is Heiner Müller, the German playwright who Amos translated, and also imitated. According to Amos, I was told, he had been looking with interest at a play Amos had written, and died with it on his bedside table — meaning of course, it was never performed. "Long live the Lacondonian rain forest" refers to a holiday in Mexico with his first wife, the novelist Sandra Newman. She refers to this more obliquely in a brief memoir of Amos, The People of the Lacandonian Rain Forest on her website.
• the lancôme rainforest in Worksongs
A further, and final, development of the Lacandonian theme.