cover image Wallless Space

Wallless Space

Ernst Meister, trans. from the German by Graham Foust and Samuel Frederick. Wave (Consortium, dist.), $18 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-933517-94-0

In his final collection, German poet Meister (1911–1979) grapples with notions of permanence and decay, and comes to the realization that it is the finality of death that dictates the inventiveness of language. “The grave,” he writes, “would be/ the very place/ of storytelling.” Spare and minimalist, Meister’s lines are unrestricted in their imaginative bounds; it as if successive poems follow the thread of a single thought into its many permutations. Each page contains a small poem—or a fragment—that seems to drift into the next one. Meister strikes a balance between the metaphysical exploration of sense and lyrical expressions of a self-consciousness aware of the limitations of language. There is “A false/ note in the air/ and a false/ eye in the light,” he warns; nothing being exactly what it seems when it is framed and caught in his distilled vocabulary. Throughout, Meister remains unsentimental, even ambivalent in his approach: “spirit/ or dust, it’s all/ the same in the universe” But there is a kind of wonder that permeates, too: “We live/ off the distances,” he begins in the second untitled section. “Death/ seems to us/ as far as the highest/ star.” Like his subject matter, Meister’s writing is ominous, intangible, and inescapable. (Sept.)