Fragments of Trakl: Imperfect Atonements

The poetry of Georg Trakl is challenging, with its symbolic arguments and narratives, that sense in each poem of being always on the cusp of a great apocalyptic revelation.  It makes the poetry fantastically rich, strange, and mysterious.  And yet it is also somehow intimate, with a warmth and vulnerability, even a humanness that feels as vulnerable and naked as the confession of a friend.

I have translated some of his work, an interesting and sometimes frustrating exercise, as German sentence structure and its use of verb tenses is much different than English.  Mark Twain has a famous and wonderful example:  “But when he, upon the street, the (in-satin-and-silk-covered-now-very-unconstrained-after-the-newest-fashioned-dressed) government counselor’s wife met.”  This is all made more difficult in poetry, which bends grammar near its breaking point.  It is sometimes frustrating, as I say, but I find that working through the differences can bring us closer to the poetry, and make the reading richer.