"namely as the lilac bush bloomed my parents went out to a bowling club I was still very small when my parents went out to a bowling club I remember I had no siblings my mother wore 1 tight-fitting short dress she was very beautiful and melancholy she had waved hair and cried often namely as the lilac bush bloomed I remember my grandmother on my mother’s side sat me on 1 bench in the Rubenspark and held my hand, it was winter ’27 I remember my grandfather pulled me onto his lap and started to play his concertina then I got very sick namely as the lilac bush bloomed I remember the world was painted in impasto and I was afraid …….. this motto (was) incidental …….. I remember namely as the locust trees bloomed and the dog Teddy came into the house I let it all wash over me and my youngest aunt wore 1 pleated dress my father seemed anxious and hardly spoke, no one read to me and no songs were sung, the moon shone onto my bed and the stars, SANK DOWN, namely gradually language blossomed and we ran in a circle as the lilac bush bloomed in the schoolyard I remember. All typewriters I remember, namely thought processes everything that fluttered off, namely …….."
Excerpted from ÉTUDES: by Friederike Mayröcker.
Published by Seagull Books March 2020.
English translation copyright © 2020 by Donna Stonecipher
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Friederike Mayröcker is widely considered one of the most important Austrian poets of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. She has published over eighty works since 1956, including poetry, prose, radio plays, and children’s books. Her work has been honoured with many prizes, including the Georg Büchner Prize and the Peter Huchel Prize. She lives in Vienna.
Donna Stonecipher is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Transaction Histories (2018), and one book of prose, Prose Poetry and the City. Her translation of Friederike Mayröcker’s études, which was awarded an NEA translation fellowship, was published in 2020. She lives in Berlin.
"Friederike Mayrocker enjoys a growing reputation as a writer whose art insistently crosses the boundaries between literary forms. Her prose is lyrical, and draws on the work of a wide range of modernist writers, from Gertrude Stein to Virginia Woolf. Beckett and Thomas Bernhard have also influenced her style of bombarding the reader with a mixture of realistic and fantastic images. The device forces the reader to participate in the mental drama which supplants narrative in her work."
—Times Literary Supplement
"The perfection of the life or the perfection of the work: these are the options Yeats set before his fellow poets. It was, he knew, an impossible choice. A life perfected one day disappears, unrecorded. A work can survive but only if one sacrifices one’s life to perfecting it. It is a circle that cannot be squared. Few writers have had the audacity to even attempt it. One of them, the Austrian experimental poet Friederike Mayröcker, is currently in the seventh decade of a career devoted to erasing the distinction between life and work."
—Ryan Ruby, Poetry Foundation