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‘In die Natur / Into Nature’


In an obvious political sense, the poem ‘into nature’ tackles head on the Faustian bargain that human society has made with technological progress. As the note below mentions the Gili Atoll is a group of three low-lying islands off the coast of Indonesia threatened by rising sea levels that are the result of global warming. More specifically the many species of sea turtle that lay their eggs on the beaches are threatened with the destruction of their habitat. Although many projects have been organised to protect and restore the coral reefs, improve waste management, struggle against erosion, and raise awareness, the idyllic islands are an increasingly popular tourist destination and the marine habitat along with the islands themselves are in danger of being overwhelmed. 

This seemed to me a wonderful reminiscence of the end of Faust II. Using dykes and dams to hold back the sea, Faust has reclaimed land given to him by the Emperor. His great project has often been seen as a utopian vision of human progress that offers widespread and permanent value to humankind. Yet, through Philemon and Baucis we see that this new world of power and prosperity possesses elements that menace the peaceful and humble way of life that they have enjoyed for so long. 

The metaphor of new land can go further. The film by the poetry collective Landschaft uses innovative digital means and music to place the original artwork into new spaces. But there again the piece offers a provocative look at the Faustian bargain of translation in all senses (between languages, between the written and performed, and between language, music and the visual). The original is an anagram moving within formidable constraints in that each line uses only the characters in the original trigger-line borrowed from Emma McGordon. It experiments playfully with sound and meaning holding multiple possibilities in suspension: a riff in which the dark undertow of destruction and the poem’s ecological conscience fight it out. A translator must make much more singular decisions and the new ground won in the German can only be approximated in English. Intriguing in the context of the Faust Shop, and the focus on bargains, is the old equivalence of ‘translation’ and ‘treason’ which finds an echo here in the line that balances ‘True North’ and ‘Telling lies’ on a perfect tongue- needle. But I hope the translation finds, and founds, its own new ground too; one alive to the vital currents within the original but also its journey: ahoy Atlantis!  

Karen Leeder

An anagram is a poem formed by rearranging the letters of a different word or phrase. The anagram in this poetry film is based on a verse from Emma McGordon’s poem MAGNETIC: The tongue is a needle. And I am true North. Telling lies.

Read Karen Leeder’s creative English translation of it:

The tongue is a needle. And I am True North. Telling lies.
Late underdogs rattle in the home, ingest all. ‘Nu ein Ei’!
Hide it in a hat. Lea runs legend-lost to unreel teeming
data. Hello, in line! No suing the ultra-green tides. Meet
a satellite retinue hounding neater gold helmets in
to nature! genuine stellar lights, one alien theme. Did
someone tell a lie? Lea, treading dust, uttering her inn-
er need to linger: slum it, atone, still aged heath, ennui.
Latent turn made true. The Gili-isles inhaled. Gone. One
nitrate hell intuited, almond Lea’s egg rite unseen. Oh!
The North ill, undone. See Lea, mud-genii, greet Atlantis.
The tongue is a needle. And I am True North. Telling lies.

Note: On the shores of the Gili Islands several endangered species of sea turtles lay their eggs. Stop climate change now.

POEM, STARRING & VOCALS Ulrike Almut Sandig
INSTRUMENTALS Grigory Semenchuk
MUSIC by Landschaft
AUDIO PRODUCTION Klangkosmonauten

Produced by Poesiekollektiv Landschaft

Copyright for images and video by Poesiekollektiv Landschaft.

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