Which popular poem do you find overrated


Goethe in contemporary poems

By Wulf Segebrecht

1. Does Goethe live? Forgive me for this unnecessary question. Of course, Goethe lives. We don't have to revive him first. As you know, it lives in research and in the feature pages, in the tourism industry and at conferences, in the theater, on television and in talk shows, in advertising, in critical editions of works and among uncritical enthusiasts. He lives in a downright obtrusive way and often to the boredom of his apologists. Everyone has him in their mouths, but the suspicion is not entirely unfounded that only a few read his works. You know Lessing's old lament: "We want to be less exalted / and read more diligently".

One of the most competent readers of Goethe would be those who, like Goethe, write poetry themselves, especially when they write poems about Goethe. I ask these poets of today how they feel about Goethe and what they have to say about Goethe. Does he live on through them? What do we learn about him from contemporary poems that mention him? And conversely, what do we learn about contemporary poetry when we look at its Goethe poems?

2. First of all, the 'material' that I want to evaluate should be briefly described. I was able to locate almost 70 poems by contemporary German authors in which Goethe is mentioned by name. Most of these are texts from recent and recent publications. In order to emphasize the relevance to the present, I have mainly, but not exclusively, taken into account those poems that have appeared in book publications since 1982, the last "Goethe year", although the year of origin may be further back in individual cases. Among the authors are Volker Braun, Heinz Czechowski, Robert Gernhardt, Günter Grass, Peter Hacks, Peter Härtling, Rolf Hochhuth, Ernst Jandl, Günter Kunert, Karl Mickel, Heiner Müller, Jürgen Theobaldy, Gabriele Wohmann and Wolf Wondratschek, very well-known authors, so that thoroughly representative results can be expected. In addition to these almost 70 texts, I came across an extraordinary number of parodies of individual poems by Goethe, which I would like to consider here only in summary and exemplary.

As regards the number of texts in which Goethe is mentioned, it should be noted that authors such as Hölderlin, Kleist, Heine, Büchner, Brecht and perhaps even Benn come across much more frequently in contemporary poetry than Goethe, such as corresponding separate collections testify. One might conclude that contemporary poets do not come up with something as easily as they do with these authors; they cannot easily identify with him; it provokes less lyrical reactions. One has to do careful research to come across corresponding texts - and that is also a finding: Goethe is obviously more cumbersome as an object of lyrical visualization than, for example, Holderlin or Brecht. In this respect, it seems to me that Heinz Czechowski's poem "Goethe und Hölderlin" is symptomatic, in which it says:

The field that Goethe plowed through,
I don't want to enter, even then,
If I were like Goethe, maybe.
But Holderlin
Who went mad
I want to be

People are reserved about Goethe's greatness, but poor Holderlin arouses sympathy. Goethe scares off, Holderlin attracts. The extremely numerous Goethe parodies do not contradict this finding. On the contrary. They testify - regardless of their otherwise different intentions - very often the pleasure that it gives to drag down great, respected, sublime masterpieces of the German language into the lowlands of triviality.

3. This can be explained using the example of the parodies of the poem "Above all peaks there is peace". It is undoubtedly the most frequently parodied poem in the German language, and it is certainly no coincidence that this poem is also the most famous poem in the German language, which was officially voted the "most beautiful" German poem in the last Goethe year (1982) . When my little book about the history of the impact of this poem was published in 1978, many readers sent me further parodies, some spontaneously self-made, some recapitulated from memory or found in books, so that I now have a huge collection of pertinent parodies of "Wanderer's Night Song". It was greatly increased by publications from 1982 that showed further variations, uses, and manners that were valid for this poem; and it was then continuously and abundantly supplemented by further finds. Just recently a book with new Goethe parodies was published. All in all, I can point out at least 300 different parodies of this poem.

Of course, such parodies are significant evidence of Goethe's lasting impact. First of all, they prove the enduring popularity of the texts to which they refer and on which they live, even if they contradict their templates or trivialize them. They provide information about what is still alive from the tradition or what the parody believes should still be alive. They can only develop their own effect on the basis of the familiarity of the template to which they refer. The parody can only have its effect if the reader can see the degree of correspondence or deviation from the original. As a result, mostly popular, well-known texts are parodied. Parodies level the differences in height between the masterpieces and the machinations. They are, as it were, the vehicles of a poetic equalization. "Above all peaks / it's 'moo'".

3.1 Parodies, for their part, contribute to the further popularization of the reference texts and thus contribute to their level of awareness, which they further intensify. It is a kind of upside-down spiral of silence: a pointing spiral that has a multiplication effect. Quotes and allusions have a similar effect, and parodies are nothing more than quotes that are more or less intensively edited. That is why, as can hardly be expected otherwise, the boundaries between such poems that parody individual texts of Goethe and those that speak about Goethe are not to be drawn strictly, which is also not necessary. A great many texts that deal with Goethe understandably make use of quotations up to and including imitation of individual Goethe poems.

3.3 The question of the intention and the literary value of parodies is ultimately behind all attempts to develop theories or systematizations of parodies. There is once around that Design the parody: How do you deal with the original? Where do you find similarities (which are necessary in order to recognize the work as a parody at all) and where are the deviations? Are only individual words or letters exchanged, are parts of the text put into new contexts or is the entire text subjected to a linguistic revision in the sense of an experiment? Is a destruction, an aggressive destruction of the original intended or a critical analysis, a ridicule or a claim for this or that ambitious statement? - And secondly, it's about him thematic scope the parody. The calm theme ("Just wait, soon / are you resting too") can be related to all possible types of silence through the parodies. The scale ranges from Pennälerpoesie ("Above all banks is peace") to the drinker's verse ("You feel the cat's breath with all drinkers") to political observations ("The rockets are stored in the forest"). First and foremost, with the help of Goethe's poem threats of doom and death are pronounced ("Wait, balde, bist aar a Leich"), whereby the most diverse causes for this expected death are cited: the destruction of nature, the overturned rivers and the Dead forests, the traffic, but also the stock market crash, the military threats, the nuclear power plants, etc. etc. - a lot of imagination is not necessary to connect the current day with Goethe's poem.

In view of the huge and 'tremendous' number of parodies of this and other poems by Goethe, it seems to me right, as stated, to regard them as 'evidence of life' of the originals; but one should not overestimate this aspect of the history of the impact. For a large part of these parodies it is of no importance whatsoever that it was Goethe who wrote down the parodied verses. These parodies derive their effect solely from the fact that they are generally known, possibly venerable verses by a well-known author. The reader of such parodies is not expected to make a direct reference to Goethe's text. The level of awareness alone, regardless of any interpretation of the Goethean text, is enough to justify these parodies. They work in the same way as advertising slogans that Goethe claims for a specific product or company. In this respect, you can be quite skeptical or even critical of them. In spite of all these reservations, I would like to maintain that the use of Goethe's verses is evidence that one expects an appeal, emphasis, and persuasive power from invoking them, even if they are merely used as a hook, to make fun of, used for fun. The aura that is quoted with such claims, as it were, cannot be destroyed by inserting it into the questionable context of a fun or consumer culture. It is true that such uses give the impression that anyone can dispose of the cultural achievements of the past at any time and for any purpose; but, as long as that happens, it is still possible at any time to claim that such uses of Goethe's aura must be linked to qualitative conditions. Only when nobody wants to know anything more about Goethe and no longer quotes him (even if it is for the most banal purposes) will all attempts to influence the type of use be in vain.

4.1. An impulse that could be read from the parodies obviously also determines a part of the poems in which Goethe is not parodied but lyrically visualized. Many contemporary poets, it can be said in general terms, react irritably to Goethe. You prefer to confront him with mundane situations. How and where he may have relieved himself (Astel, Czechowski), what happened to his trousers when Lieschen ironed them (Gernhardt), how he would have felt as a resident of an old people's home (Hotz), that Friederike had the cold, when he wanted to visit her - this and that kind of thing occupies the imagination of our poets for a long time. And they themselves are occupied with equally mundane things while approaching Goethe in their poems; there is "a quick grimace in front of goethes / mirror" and a cigarette is smoked in his garden (Kling), the shoddy scribbles renewed "with zeal for Sisyphus" are looked at on his house (Struzyk) and an intact toilet is sought in Weimar (Czechowski), - other than such and similar 'urgent needs' seem to be of little concern to some Goethe-Besinger as they approach him. "O Johann, Wolfgang, / You turn me on!" Robert Stauffer (at least the chairman of the VS in Bavaria) writes in the tone of the "Mailied" to close with the verse "Be ours forever / let yourself be licked!" Even Peter Hacks masters this idea in his distich "G.":

Goethe already wrote "Lick my ass" in Wetzlar,
But only in eternal Rome, dared to feel it.

In view of such tastelessness, correct biographical details or exact quotations apparently no longer matter. The main thing: the drasticness is right.

4.2 Of the Works Goethe's is comparatively little mentioned in the poems examined. There are some allusions to and quotations from Goethe's works in the poems, but the knowledge of the work is, generally speaking, somewhat limited as far as it is communicated in the poems. Mentioned are: Stella, Faust, Tasso, Götz, the Harz journey in winter, the Italian journey and some poems, no Wilhelm Meister, no elective affinities, even Werther is not mentioned.

4.2.1 On the other hand, one might find it surprising that Goethe's "Stella", his "Play for Lovers", is encountered three times in the poems. The story of the bigamist Fernando, which in the first version of the play led to the universally accepted proposal of a marriage for three (the second, fatal version is more likely to be seen as a concession by Goethe to the morals prevailing at the time), seems to be provocative - Despite all the sexual liberation achieved in the meantime - not having completely lost it yet. Nevertheless, at least B.K. Tragelehn apparently said that this provocation, in order to be effective today, needs to be drastically intensified. In "Fernandos Lied", "Written after Jürgen Gosch's Schwerin staging of the play", Fernando's vacillations between his two women are brought to the formula "I and you and you and you" very succinctly, but at the same time extremely vulgar to the image of the "hard tail" and pointed by the "hole", which in the end turns out to be the "last hole", i.e. the grave. Rolf Hochhuth's seven-stanza "Stella-Dialog" is hardly less drastic and admittedly adorns itself with a motto from Goethe's drama - "Everyone should have it without stealing anything from the other" - in which the Stella constellation is actually reversed : A "he" asks a "she" to remain loyal insofar as she should do it at the same time with her new, young lover, the "boy", as well as with the old man with whom she "slept" in the past and who doesn't want to be wiped off "like shit off his shoe". As such linguistic updates and trivializations show, Hochhuth's Stella-Dialog is an ideology-critical revision of the Stella drama from the spirit of a supposedly modern conception of gender equality. But precisely from such a point of view one might ask whether Goethe's Stella solution can really be overtaken ideologically by the fact that the demand is made that a woman must be available to several men. Wouldn't that be a relapse into a chauvinistic way of thinking oriented towards the wishes of the man, which Goethe has just replaced in his drama? In a very similar way, Hochhuth turned Goethe's poem "Visit" into vulgarity. While Goethe's poem describes how a lover visits his sleeping lover and cannot make up his mind to wake her up, Hochhuth turns this scene into a "first petting" between an apprentice and a schoolgirl, which leaves nothing to be desired in terms of detail. Under such circumstances the title of the poem can only be described as cynical: "First Petting or Volksausgabe von Goethe's visit", although it is difficult to decide who is being insulted more: the 'people' who are expected to see this version of Goethe's poem as appropriate, or Goethe. - The third Stella poem - an artful sonnet - comes from Heiner Müller.

Five acts long, dear audience
Have you watched, we hope with pleasure
How two ladies revolve around a gentleman
Until finally one out of three, straight out of crooked
Through love. Who is embarrassed by the result
Also served: Because what has to be beautiful is beautiful
Wrote a different conclusion from Herr von Goethe
Which, as usual, is governed by multiplication tables.
What love can do: three hearts glow in one
Can poison and lead by means of subtraction
Good tone triumphs with horror
Because number stings heart, the realm of beautiful appearances
Has no reason in a community center
Applause snows for two dead.

He wrote his poem "for one Stella-Performance in Potsdam, where both ends were played, "the one that ends scandalously but happily with the marriage of three, and the one who avoids this scandal, but ends tragically in order to save bourgeois morality. Heiner Müller sums this up in his "Stellasonett" in the succinct formulas: "The good tone triumphs with horror" and "Applause reassures two dead." The sonnet not only recapitulates the two different "solutions" of the drama that the audience in Potsdam received were presented, but it also interprets the difference between them as a frightening result of bourgeois artistic and moral ideas; "beautiful is what must be" - under this ethical as well as aesthetic dictate it is necessary to decimate (subtract) the lovers instead of establishing one “The realm of beautiful appearances.” And the deaths caused by “poison and lead” are also applauded by the bourgeois audience t, with which it also indicates in Müller's sonnet that it agrees with it.The bourgeois world of values ​​and the concept of art are only in order again when the conventional arithmetic rules rule, the multiplication tables and subtraction. The first version of the drama had overruled these kinds of arithmetic

The help of an unconventional love, whose magical power "becomes one out of three, straight out of crooked". For the audience, however, the following applies: "Numbers stand out"; it does not want to be disturbed by the magical works from the "realm of beautiful appearance"; it insists on reassurance through art, even at the cost of "two dead", actually only then does it appear calm and satisfied, as the applause proves.

At the same time, the sonnet operates a subtle form of insulting the audience; Due to the polite form of address ("dear audience") and the form of the sonnet, which is recognized as a strict art exercise, it apparently adapts to the expectations to which an educated audience can lay claim. It thus secures for itself the same applause of satisfaction that characterized and at the same time exposed the bourgeois audience of the Stella performance; Applause for a message that the audience radically questions rather than confirms. Müller's "Stellasonett" thus proves to be an extraordinarily far-reaching dialectical examination of aesthetic positions, which can be read on the one hand from the "Stella" versions of Goethe and on the other hand from the then and current public expectations of poetry.

The Stella poems by Tragelehn, Hochhuth and Müller attest - for all their differences, including qualitative differences - to an intensity of preoccupation with Goethe's texts that is by no means typical of most other contemporary Goethe poems. Only Yaak Karsunke's text about Goethe's "Tasso" should be placed alongside them. In this context it is certainly no coincidence that these three authors worked primarily as dramatists or (Tragelehn) as dramaturges. They deal analytically and interpretively with Goethe's text, emphasize it, update it, question it, always on the condition that the text itself is visualized as a foil for such an interpretation through a performance or renewed reading.

4.2.2 Poets who are not also dramatists rarely show a comparable analytical interest in Goethe's works. The stations of life and love affairs of Goethe, the Goethe sites and the accessories of the Goethe cult seem to be more important to them than the works of Goethe. They speak more of their own state of mind and their state of mind in the face of such Goethe reminiscences than of individual works by Goethe. Where this nevertheless happens, as in Wilhelm Bartsch's "Harzreise im Winter. Frei nach Goethe und Grog", at first glance it is a high-spirited appropriation of Goethe's hymn from 1777. Enthusiastic about Goethe's text and the grog he enjoyed, the "Bartschkrakeel" (that's what he calls himself at the end) gets the license to approach Goethe's hymn right up to the literal quote ("the desert devours him"), but also to deviate from it. The principle of this deviation is the interchanging of syllables, words and parts of sentences, so that what appears to be nonsense emerges, as it might come close to the language of a drunk:

Like a screwdriver
The one about prohibited land and no man's area
Thundering with ruling wings
Pay attention to security and order,
Sing my circle!

As you can see, the drunken spokesman comes dangerously close to the militarily secured border, and, as is said to be drunk, slurping and in league with Goethe, truths that one would hardly let him get away with, one would have to do with his clear Expect understanding: "With the hand in the pigeon and the roof / On the sparrow the new Reichs have long been / [...] in their swamps". The reversal of the words is a mirror of the wrong relationships, which cannot be put in order simply by restoring the correct order of the words and syllables. In this sense, the drunk drinks to the key word: "Cheers, musing Olympus / On the Goethe!" The deviator knows that he is in league with him in a drinking companion-like manner, regardless of whether Goethe's text allows it or not.

4.2.3 In contrast, Volker Braun's poem "Im Ilmtal" is an explicit contradiction to Goethe's poem "An den Mond". A contradiction that is primarily directed against the 5th stanza of the first (or the 8th stanza of the second) version: "Blessed is he who closes himself off from the world / without hatred / holds a man [friend] by his bosom / And with which enjoys [...] ". On the other hand, Braun says: "I cannot live without friends / [...] And not enough for me, not calm / One of them now makes me; / I cannot close myself off happy with him from the world". The solidarity of the self with the working people is indispensable for Braun, indispensable. The ego only defines itself through this solidarity with friends; it only gains its self-confidence and self-esteem through them, through many, not through one individual. Braun's poem is obviously about replacing a conventional form of socialist solidarity, which was only determined by the satisfactory participation of the individual in the cooperative project to change the world, with a new form of solidarity in which the individual can bring his own individual feelings can. It is about a connection between the I-feeling and the we-feeling, which undoubtedly involves a revision of narrowly defined socialist ideologems. Not only as "proletarians of all countries", but also as individuals, people should unite with one another. Braun's opposition to Goethe from a socialist point of view is bought at the price of a reduction in the self-image of the self in Goethe: Braun speaks only of "the feelings" of the individual; his unspecified emotional world deserves it and demands to be included in the project of the "large circle" of socialism. Goethe, on the other hand, spoke of the "labyrinth of the chest". Braun suppresses the fact that the individual's breasts can already contain a hopelessness and unending doubtfulness: Goethe's "labyrinth of the breast" becomes the undifferentiated "breast" for him. Goethe, it seems to me, turns out to be the far more modern author in this confrontation with Volker Braun.

4.3 If you look at the current Goethe poems to see where Goethe is visited, which people and places are associated with him, the following results: He is primarily seen as a Weimaraner Das Haus am Frauenplan or Seifengasse , the nearby apartment of Frau von Stein, the summer house (recently, at Czechowski's, also the cloned summer house), the theater, the monument to the two Dioscuri - these are the places that appear several times in the poems. Sesenheim ranks first among the other stations in Goethe's life. Also mentioned are: the city of birth Frankfurt, Wetzlar, where Goethe worked as a trainee lawyer, the trips to Italy and the Harz Mountains, Ilmenau, of course, with the Kickelhahn because of "Wanderer's Night Song", which was immortalized there; finally Goethe on his deathbed, which brings us back to Weimar.

4.3.1 The very fact that Goethe is seen predominantly as a Weimaraner in the poems and is critically visualized is very significant. Goethe spent most of his life in Weimar. And it is precisely at this time that there is predominantly skepticism, criticism and reservations. In this respect, it is definitely a blanket criticism that poets make of Goethe. There are hardly any unconditional admirers of Weimar Goethe. Gabriele Eckart praises the "gifted" on the occasion of a visit to the Goethe House in Weimar, but she does it extremely "hesitantly", even clumsily, and the hexameter, which she describes and chooses as "your gifted meter", is wrong both in front and behind .

The classic Weimaraner Goethe is also the preferred subject in Günter Kunert's Goethe poems. We meet Goethe by name in at least eight of Kunert's poems. No contemporary poet quotes him more often. I will only name a few of the corresponding poem titles: "Encounter on the Frauenplan", "Visit to Weimar", "Commemorating Goethe", "Goethe, greatly improved", "Under all the treetops", "Faust III", "More light". "Kunert and Goethe" or "Kunert's Goethe Reception" - that would be very promising if someone were to look for a topic that has not yet been worked on. I don't want to anticipate that here. Instead, I would like to briefly examine just one of these texts, which refers to Goethe's death under the title "More Light".

"More light"
The face turned to the wall
Goethe on his deathbed
You only hear the scratching
the fingernails
the search for the secret door handle
into a future
which will be darker
as if I was there

"More light" - these are supposed to have been Goethe's last words, and, as it should be, they have been widely interpreted as Goethe's legacy, as the sum of his existence. In the hour of his death, Goethe sees in a visionary way for the future what he himself has been involved in all his life: more light, more affection for life, more enlightenment, also - interpreted religiously - more grace. Such are the optimistic interpretations of these last, legendary words of Goethe. In Kunert's text this telling quote occurs only in the title. Goethe doesn't really pronounce the words. It says: "You only hear the scratching / fingernails / the search for the secret door handle / into a future / that will be darker". Goethe does not announce anything here, he is not a visionary, he searches wordlessly. There is no hold for him, no security, no "door handle" in the face of "futureness / which will be darker". The optimistic interpretation of Goethe's last words is turned into its opposite. The dark times inevitably begin after his death. Futility, cultural pessimism spread. And then follows - as a highlight of the poem, separated from the rest of the text - the final line: "As if I were with it Obviously an ironic remark by the reporter about Goethe's hour of death, and in two respects: once as a self-questioning, as a questioning of the authenticity of the reporting: I'm just pretending to be "as if I had been there", which in reality actually secondly, as a comment on the dark, pessimistic interpretation of Goethe's last words: the look into the dark future times is not to be blamed on Goethe himself, but above all on his interpreter: "as if I was there ". It is I, contemporary of the post-Goethean dark times, who gives this gloomy interpretation to his last legendary words.

The poem is very indicative of Kunert's dealings with Goethe. Again and again he expressly emphasizes the difference in times between Goethe's and our times. He does not update Goethe, but rather a confrontation with him. "Goethe / and Schiller hold each other / by the hands / in the face of their descendants", says the poem "Visit to Weimar". In addition, Goethe is always brought to mind by Kunert with literal quotations from his works, especially from his later work, although these quotations are of course reinterpreted and reinterpreted. Neither careless disqualification nor hasty consent characterize Kunert's dealings with Goethe. Rather, he brings him historical understanding and at the same time distance. Respect and criticism complement each other. "You haven't started to finish yet", he attests to him in the poem "Commemorating Goethe".

4.3.2 After Weimar, Sesenheim ranks second as a popular place for Goethe's lyrical visualization. Sesenheim is visited in the poems of those who know and for those who know as a memorable, consecrated place. The poem by Karl Hotz is almost entitled "Pilgrimage". Whoever is on the "pilgrimage to Sesenheim" does not even have to be told: Goethe's name does not appear in any of the Sesenheim poems, and Jan Koneffke's poem does not even mention the place name, but Friederiken's. Franz Liebl interprets Friederike Brion in his "Sesenheimer Elegie" as Goethe's original erotic experience, as the mere variants of which the later female figures appear in Goethe's life and work: Bettine von Arnim, Ulrike von Levetzow, Gretchen and the Roman Faustina. With Karl Hotz, the present in the form of a helicopter is loudly pushed into the foreground, the past is taken note of in summary: there is talk of the "famous inn", of the "old genius" (Goethe was young at that time), of the " Barn (in excellent condition) "and" at the small memorial house "the visitors pass completely by: They already know everything, look at each other, understandingly, and do not really get involved in the story:

Pilgrimage to Sesenheim

Where to the right of the main
road turns, he behaves
big bird next to the cart
Shadows over the panes
we hear the heavy ones for a long time
persistent blows he screwed
suddenly he breaks out
and from it -

We eat in the famous guest
courtyard on the square in the next room
Scattered things from the old genius
next to the barn (great
preserved) the rectory

Later we will take a leisurely stroll
past the small memorial house
smile intelligently at us
and look (as if on command)
over to Strasbourg

Quite different with Koneffke:

Dogs scratch in the yard
as if the earth could tell

as if his skirt was still beating
over the house the heart on the chamber
as if clouds were still coming from the Rhine
danced in front of the barn in the evening
as if fruit was still falling
down into the lap of his loved one
as if he gave again and again
the most fleeting words: the poet

is good already good
Friederike in the courtyard
calms the dogs down

Here, what is already famous and restored is not sought out (or bypassed), but what is more private and intimate is viewed as what "still", "still", "again and again" remains. In the five hypothetical use of "as" in the sense of "as if" the present is perceived as if it were identical with the past, which at the same time means that it is not so. Goethe's "rock", his "heart", the "chamber" of Friederike, the "clouds from the Rhine", the "barn", the falling "fruit" and the "lap of his loved ones" are present through imagination and they are just there present through the imagination. In this way, the difference in times is made painfully conscious and canceled. In the end, the elegiac imaginative fantasy activity of the Sesenheim visitor is rewarded by the actual, unquestionable presence of Friederike. She "calms the dogs": the visitor has arrived and he is welcome. It is not the striking events, but rather the poet's "most fleeting words" that make the past present here.

4.4 Finally, we can speak of such poems which Goethe neither thematizes through quotations nor through recapitulation of historical life situations or through site visits to his workplaces, neither through work interpretations nor through parodies, but which put him in fictional, mostly current situations. Goethe as a commentator at the Frankfurt Book Fair (Hans Weigel), Goethe in a retirement home (Hotz), Goethe flirting with a milkmaid, greeted by Arno Schmidt (Beat Brechbühl), Goethe as a passenger on a car trip (Theobaldy) - these are exemplary subjects of such poems. They offer the opportunity to examine whether and how, in the opinion of today's poets, Goethe can withstand our present. If (in Weigel's poem), in view of the book fair, due to the media spectacle and the profiteering that reigns there, he states the death of poetry in a poor corner, then such claims by Goethe against all outward appearances are well-intentioned and even worthy of heed, but it remains itself externally. It is well known that Goethe was not a bad businessman when it came to marketing his poetry. The thesis of a pure incompatibility of market and media with poetry would certainly not find a defender in him. - As a resident of an old people's home, in Karl Hotz's poem Goethe is obviously portrayed from the point of view of an employee as a little careless, but vain and very clean; There is no sympathy whatsoever for his collections in the old people's home, so the house rules must be brought to his mind. Apart from the reference to Goethe's character traits, however, the poem contains little that is worth considering; possibly it stimulates to reflect on the economic and social conditions of Goethe's old age in the house at the Frauenplan.

Among the poems that put Goethe in fictional situations, the somewhat older text "Adventure with Poetry" by Jürgen Theobaldy from 1973 seems to me to be by far the most beautiful.

Adventure with poetry

When I encouraged Goethe to get in
he was there immediately
While we were driving
he wanted to know everything exactly
I let him step on the gas once
and he shouted: "Outside!"
and drummed on the dashboard
I turned the radio on full
he reached around the front
broke off the wiper
and then we raced through the village
across the jetty and into the field
where we laugh and scream
rolled out of the cart

The poem begins disrespectfully and confidently: The self ranks ahead of Goethe, who behaves somewhat disoriented and clumsy as a passenger, while the speaker can proudly and deliberately play off his routine in dealing with the technology that has advanced since Goethe to his famous passenger. But anything but a classic dismantling, a fall from the base is obviously intended here. Goethe spontaneously accepts the invitation to ride along, curious and inquisitive he inquires about all the functions of the vehicle and tries them out himself, prepared to take risks; with motor enthusiasm, he enjoys the liberating and thrilling feeling of speed and volume. This Goethe turns out to be a very lively, high-spirited companion when they drive together in a car. That secures the rapporteur's sympathy for him. With this Goethe he can identify and in the end even fraternize. His poem - formulated casually, without restrictive rhymes and stanzas - depicts the process that leads to this fraternization as an adventurous liberation movement. Against all etiquette, against social constraints and bourgeois considerations, Goethe pushes out into the open. Significantly, this quote comes from the dungeon scene of "Faust", and it signals the readiness for unconditional self-awareness. The route itself, the direction "into the open", has priority over every conceivable destination. Under such circumstances, the shared adventure becomes an adventure of experiencing one's own subjectivity, and in the end the like-minded young people fraternize under their sign. This adventure has something to do with "poetry" insofar as Goethe's behavior for the reporter obviously demonstrates those qualities that a young, subjective poetry should have in his view: It should be spontaneously and open to new things, turned towards life, lustful and open to freedom, so undogmatic. The fraternization with Goethe contains the commitment to such a poem. Goethe - of course the young Goethe, the rebellious striker and urgeon, not the sedate ducal privy councilor - is here without hesitation taken up for the program of the New Subjectivity of the 1970s, whose exponent in theory and practice is Jürgen Theobaldy.

Theobaldy's poem is an exception among the poems of the present that Goethe brings to mind. Looking back on these texts, one has to say: In the poems that deal with Goethe, the voyeuristic, sexist, tourist and populist view of Goethe definitely predominates. In the phenomenon of Goethe, the lyricists predominantly notice what would be accessible to any superficial view even without them: the love affairs, the Goethe sites, the expletive expressions. They obviously enjoy trivializing and trivializing Goethe. This reaction to Goethe's supposed aloofness is quite understandable and would even have to be legitimized if one assumed that Goethe should be brought back into the present reality of life in this way. But such an approach can be countered by saying that this Goethe, the banal and trivial Goethe, is alive anyway and does not need to be revived. Here only clichés, stereotypes and prejudices are served quickly. What is noticed, observed, commented on at all is predominantly that which is already in the general consciousness even without such poems: Again and again Weimar and the garden shed, Sesenheim, Gingo biloba, the love affairs. Nothing on the other hand about Goethe's scientific thinking, nothing about mining, about his novels, about the reception of antiquity, about his renewals and rejuvenations, especially those of the old work, which still remains a terra incognita. Goethe is predominantly seen as a classic Weimaraner and viewed critically as such. The demythologizations of this classicism, which have already solidified into a rite themselves, still prevail. They take place through the confrontation of the classic or Olympian with profane situations. Hardly any contemporary lyricist can forgive his Goethe for the "privy councilor". In contrast, the pre-classical life and work of Goethe is clearly shown sympathy. The Sturm und Drang is played off against the classic. The biographical clearly ranks ahead of the work. The most interesting encounters with Goethe and his work arise where either a dedicated examination of individual works takes place (Stella, Harzreise in winter) or where completely fictional situations are designed (Theobaldy).

Does that allow any conclusions to be drawn about poetry today? The fact that only a few poems reveal a really productive reception of Goethe - and these few good, novel, thought-provoking poems I have put in the foreground here - is not really surprising. There will always be more bad poems than good ones. But the reasons why this is so can be seen quite clearly in the example of the contemporary Goethe poems: The lyric poets don't bother too much with their objects (in our case the "object" is Goethe). They acquire too little knowledge of the subject; they are content with what one can learn about this subject at any time and anywhere, even without new poems; even more so, they place it in such trivial contexts that hide rather than reveal the peculiarity, the peculiarity of this object. Poetry all too often competes with nonsense, with unformed everyday chatter, with half-knowledge, instead of perceiving its ability to gain unfamiliar aspects from its subjects from competent knowledge and to place them in novel situations. Mere statements of state of mind in the face of Goethe and more or less cheeky jokes or obscenities cannot achieve this. Goethe as a challenge to one's own productivity is far from exhausted.