The Responsibility of Poets

As comhrá reatha: 

It is good that we constantly return to the responsibility of poets in today's world.I believe that modern western civilisation has caused a spiritual and mental  paralysis among many poets and artists across all disciplines.Currently, myself and fellow-translator Hans-Christian Oeser, are working on our thirteenth trilingual volume together, German, English and Irish. This time it is the poems of Martin Walser (found in diaries and other writings). In my Afterword I intend to write something along these lines:
It is no wonder to me that Martin Walser wrote his Ph.D dissertation on Kafka. After all, there's something Kafkaesquely wrong with the world he lives in - that we all live in - some kind of psychosis. Is that not so? Who suffers from this psychosis? The community/ society, the writer, the reader? All of us, of course. In his prose and in his poetry, we feel that various characters seem to be suffering various crises, the writer included, and happiness seems very far off indeed.

Such themes in modern literature have made  addicts of the reading public - and of anyone who watches a play, a TV entertainment or a film; we need our dose of pessimism, of despair and of cynicism since anything pleasant or happy or humane, or innocent would strike us as lacking veracity. That's the way it is. We need this pain. The irony. The mockery. The violence.
And yet, Walser is called by some a Heimatdichter. He wants to go home. Wouldn't we all! He would like to escape from the Kafkaesque maze, escape from the German shame of two world wars and the concentration camps. Can we escape from history? Reading and translating his poems, I found myself trapped in a Kafkaesque world. This was not created by Kafka, or Walser. It is we who have created this world. What must we do? Break it, break this world?

ich muß es zerschlagen
bevor es Nacht wird

This world of consumerism, this world of depersonalisation. Can we open our mouths about it? No, the modern condition is paralysis. Walser says if he opened his mouth he might scream:
ich weiß, er will schreien

The sickness of western society is such that it needs a crisis to be whole again. Walser is typical of the ennui, cynicism and disenchantment that pervades an awful lot of modern writing in the West. I have always done my best to avoid being infected by this dis-ease, a word I deliberately hyphenate. An early interest in macrobiotics, Transcendental Meditation and haiku, for starters, as well as minority cultures, all combined to work as an antidote to the dis-ease of the West. And so we look at the diseased patient and ask, what now? A crisis?

This is what we are waiting for, what we expect to happen to the patient: a crisis. Is it happening already? Or do we see just a few twitches here and there?