Is This Really Meant To Make Me Feel Better On Christmas Eve? A Feel-Good Poem by Hans Magnus Enzenberger

German Public Intellectual, Novelist and Poet

Hans Magnus Enzenberger, German Public Intellectual, Novelist and Poet. Photo Credit: The Guardian 2010

Astronomical Sunday Sermon

Speaking of our misery –
hunger, war, murder etcetera
quite so! Bedlam! Agreed!
Still may I remind you,
with all due modesty,
that the planet on which
we have landed up, is
by and large rather comfortable.

Strewn with roses, you might say,
compared with Neptune
(two hundred and twelve degrees subzero,
wind speed up to six hundred mph
and a bloody high content
of methane in the atmosphere).
Just to remind you that elsewhere
Life can be yet more unbearable. Amen.

Hans Magnus Ezenberger (1929 – ) from Open Secret by Anthony Caro, Ivory Press, 2004

‘Tis the season to be jolly! Or so the Christmas song says! Bah humbug I want to say, what with all the murder, war, tragic human dislocations etcetera, to partially quote Hans Magnus Ezenberger in his poem above.

But Ezenberger’s poem, as I reflect on it, on Christmas Eve, 2015, gives me pause. I know he overstates his case to make his point. And I think there is a word for this in rhetoric but for now I let the poem stand as it is. After all, giving all our local concerns a cosmic perspective maybe helps, a little! Brings me closer to the hopeful message of Christmas.

I am not familiar with Enzenberger but by all accounts he has been an imposing figure in German letters, often speaking out on the less popular side of issues as a public intellectual, novelist and poet. One writer goes as far as to call him Germany’s most important poet. He has been a prolific writer and Picador just published in his  New Selected Poems this year. In a review of the collection Sean O’Brien, the acclaimed U.K. based poet, essayist and playwright, writing in the Guardian says: Savage, funny, exact, widely informed, immune to sentiment, Enzensberger is the kind of public author we could do with here and now.For a link to O’Brien’s review click here. And for an extensive 2010 interview with Enzenberger in the Guardian  Click here.

So in the spirit of this Christmas Season and Enzenberger’s poem I say: Peace on earth! Good will to men, women and boys and girls! And I raise a glass to a remarkable planet that is by and large rather comfortable. But I also raise another glass to the many of us around the world at this time for whom Enzenberger’s poem just brings cold comfort.I don’t want to forget them, especially tonight, here in Duncan, B.C. as I sit in front of my warm fire with my dear wife and begin our celebrations for Christmas.

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *