Monday, May 04, 2020

My January 20 is May 4

Georg Büchner's "Lenz" begins with a date: "On January 20, Lenz walked through the mountains." In his Büchner Prize speech, Paul Celan made something out of that wounded date: "Every poem is inscribed with its own January 20." The poem's date is not a historical, public event but a private moment, like Lenz in the mountains (which becomes public and historical only when Büchner makes it literature). But the January 20 inscribed in my poems is actually May 4, a date both historical and private: the date of the Kent State shootings in 1970 (50th anniversary this year), and the date in 1982 when I first lost a friend to suicide. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 4 May)

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