Poet's Pick April 15
Paul Klee: "Sprache ohne Vernunft"
("Speech without Reason")

Selected by Graham Foust
National Poetry Month 2016

Letter from the Editors

Dear Readers,

Our thanks to Graham Foust for today's Poet's Pick!

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Don Selby & Diane Boller

Graham Foust's Poetry Month Pick, April 15, 2016

"Sprache ohne Vernunft" ("Speech without Reason")
by Paul Klee (1879–1940)
translated by Graham Foust

Sprache ohne Vernunft

– Die Vernunft schwamm im Strom
des Weines davon. –

Ein guter Fischzug ist großer Trost.

Niedertracht sucht mich auch dieses Jahr
zu beschleichen.

Ich muß gerettet werden.
Durch Erfolg?

Hat die Inspiration Augen,
oder schlafwandelt sie?

Meine Hände falten sich zuweilen.
Doch gleich dicht darunter verdaut der Bauch,
filtert die Niere hell den Urin.

Die Musik über alles lieben,
heißt unglücklich sein.

Zwölf Fische,
zwölf Morde.


Speech without Reason

Reason swam away in the river of wine.

A good catch is great solace.

Wretchedness, even this year,
creeps up on me.

I have to get saved.
By prosperity?

Has afflatus eyes,
or does it sleepwalk?

Sometimes my hands fold.
But just under them, my belly keeps digesting,
my kidney clearing urine.

Music loved above all else,
that’s unhappiness.

Twelve fish,
twelve murders.


* Graham Foust Comments:
Paul Klee never published any of his poems, which were found in a notebook and a diary after he died.  That’s one thing to admire in them—they were an unprofessional and private activity.

What about this particular poem gives me pleasure?  I like that it feels both drawn to and wary of magical thinking, that it feels aware of art’s potential to be both removed from and in contact with what we call the world.

With each reading of this poem, I feel the at-once guilty and innocent pleasure of self-reflexive consumption and contemplation, of watching and listening to my own feelings and beliefs.  It asks, tentatively, and answers, never definitively, the following:  How much is too much when nothing’s ever really (and also always) enough?

Graham Foust:
Born in Tennessee and raised in Wisconsin, Graham Foust is the author of six books of poems, including To Anacreon in Heaven and Other Poems (Flood Editions 2013), a finalist for the Believer Poetry Award, and Time Down to Mind (Flood Editions, 2015).  With Samuel Frederick, he has also translated three books by the late German poet Ernst Meister, including Wallless Space (Wave Books, 2014).  He works at the University of Denver.

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