Spring Symposium Berlin 2018
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Spring Symposium 2018 Berlin

Hilde Domin

Hilde Domin, born Hilde Löwenstein in Cologne 1909 as a daughter of a Jewish middle-class family, was a very well educated woman. Between 1929 and 1932, she studied law as well as economics, sociology and philosophy in different universities in Germany. As Hitler rose to power, Hilde Domin started studies in Italy, together with her later husband Erwin Walter Palm. Here she finished her Dissertation 1935 about renaissance politics. 1936 the couple had to leave fascist Italy and to move again to survive. With a years' stop in England 1939, Hilde Domin and her husband migrated to the Dominican Republic and lived there until 1954. They returned to Heidelberg, where both had studied and where Hilde Domin died in 2006.

The exile from country to country and her work as translator, teacher, lecturer and as a secretary for her husband forced Hilde Domin to learn many languages. To counter the increasing mental isolation she felt and the alienation from her husband, she started writing.
Writing poetry preserved her from suicide in 1951 after her mother's death. Hilde Domin trusted the word and saw herself at that time as "a dying woman who wrote against dying."

When Hilde Domins' first poetry book "Only a rose as a support"1 came out in 1959, she had to cheat about her age because no publishing company would have published a book by a woman over fifty. Nevertheless – that articulates her attitude towards life - Hilde Domin became one of the most important, German-speaking lyricists. A wide range of audience read her books and she received many awards such as the Rilke Price, the Heine Medal, Nelly Sachs Price, Friedrich Hölderlin Price, Carl Zuckmayer Medal, the highest civil distinction of the Dominican Republic and the Grosse Verdienstkreuz from Germany.
In reference to the country where she found refuge and in which her life as a poet began,
she published under the pseudonym Domin.
Air, flying, hovering, rose: in her poetry, Hilde Domin uses a simple language full of images and nature-like metaphors and motifs to express desire and hope and to bridge the inner and outer world.

1 Nur eine Rose als Stütze. Gedichte. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1959

This is a selection of Poems by Hilde Domin,
translated into English by Meg Taylor:

We were deluged
and washed with the waters of Noah's flood
we were soaked through
to the skin of our hearts

Longing for a landscape
this side of the border of tears
doesn't work
longing to hold on to spring blossom
longing to remain unscathed
doesn't work

What works is to ask
that at sunrise the dove
will bring the olive branch
that the fruit will be as colourful
as the blossom
that even the rose petals on the ground
can become a shining crown

And that we, out of the flood
out of the lions den and the
fiery furnace
will be released
renewing ourselves
even more wounded and even more healed.

Your mouth on mine
Your mouth on mine.
I lose all outline.
Thousands of tiny blossoms
all over my body.

You kissed me tenderly
and went.

Dry shame like a fire
is red
on my belly and breasts.

Passing Landscape
We must be able to go away
and yet be like a tree
rooted in the earth
standing fast while the landscape passes.
We must hold our breath
until the wind dies down
and different air starts to encircle us
until the play of light and shade
of green and blue
shows the old pattern
and we are home
wherever that may be
and able to sit down and lean against it
as if it were the gravestone of
our mother.

Etiquette for Everywhere
They spit in your face
wrap a cloud around you
say its raining.

A rain wet face
is publicly acceptable
even a tear soaked one.

The abused
make light of it
so they may be forgiven.

Certainly this was known to every
in the Third Reich.

Only the hanged
hung there
bothersome to look at

and were thrashed
while dying
for their dying.

I want you
I want you
roughed up with sandpaper
you smooth one

(the one I mean
freedom from and freedom to)

slave to fashion

You are licked
with pointed tongues
until you are all round
a sphere
on all the cloths

This freedom word
that I want to rough up
I want to stick glass splinters into you
to make you hard on the tongue
nobodyis ball


and other
words I want to stick glass splinters in
like Confucius
the old Chinaman

The square bowl he says
have corners
he says
or the state will collapse

Nothing else he says
is necessary
the round round
and the square square

Three Ways of Transcribing Poems
I wish to write
in clear letters
on a dry riverbed
a white ribbon of pebbles
seen from afar
or a scree slope
sliding under my lines
slipping away
so that the however
of the thorny life of my words
be the however of each letter

Little letters
precise ones
so that the words come quietly
so that the words sneak in
so that you have to go there
towards the words
to look for them in the white
you dont notice them entering
through the pores
sweat that runs inwards
and the however of each letter

I want a strip of paper
as big as me
one metre sixty
on it a poem
that screams
when someone passes by
screams in black letters
demands the impossible
moral courage for example
that bravery which no animal has
fellow suffering for example
solidarity rather than being herded
made at home in deed

animal with moral courage
animal that knows fellow suffering
human foreignword-animal word-animal
that writes poems
that demands the impossible
of everyone who passes by
as if its yelling
drink Coca-Cola

My sex is trembling
My sex is trembling
like a little bird
under the touch of your gaze.

Your hands a tender breeze
on my body.
All my guards flee.

You open the last door.
I am so shocked
with happiness
that all sleep becomes thin
like a well worn cloth.

when I fall asleep
I feel beneath me
the swaying take-off
of the great Eskimobird
seeking its course
like a hesitant plane.

I lie on its back
between its wings
but you,
a multi-formed animal,
sit on the tail of the bird
and fly with me
overarching me
and my breath
cant escape you.

Words are ripe pomegranates
they fall to earth
and open themselves.
The inner will be turned outwards
the fruit exposes its secret
and shows its seed.
A new secret.

Get up Abel
Get up Abel
it must be played anew

it must be played anew every day

every day the answer must stay in front of us

yes must be an option

if you dont get up Abel
how can the answer
to this singularly important question
ever be changed

we can shut all the churches
and get rid of all the law books
in all the languages of the earth
if only youd get up
and take back
that first wrong answer
to the only question
that matters

get up
so that Cain says
so that he can say
I am your keeper
how can I not be your keeper

Get up every day
so that we keep it in front of us
this Yes I am here
your brother

So that the children of Abel
are no longer afraid
because Cain isnt Cain anymore

I write this
I a child of Abel
afraid every day
of the answer
the air in my lungs runs out
as I wait for the answer

Get up Abel
so that it can begin differently
between us all

The fires that burn
the fire that burns on the earth
shall be Abels fire

And on the tail of the rocket
shall be Abels fires