cover image Of Things

Of Things

Michael Donhauser, trans. from the German by Nick Hoff and Andrew Joron. Burning Deck (SPD, dist.), $14 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-936194-20-9

Translators Joron (Trance Archive) and Hoff (Some Ones) render Austrian poet Donhauser's studies on nature into a meta-examination of the art of translating. Over the course of 10 poems the reader is asked to "read" the natural objects that Donhauser describes. The collection begins with "The Thicket," a space where "Everything is still undeveloped." That figurative mess turns in on itself as the study of the natural object becomes a study of language, none of which is able to convey what the object actually is. A little later, a pile of manure serves as the ground where one questions religion and watches nature "in brilliant decline." Language layers on itself, forming strata of meditation and a sort of object lesson of walking in the woods. Donhauser continually use simple objects to discuss science, philosophy, history, and self. The words become "increasingly branched" and obsessive, the poems' inability to arrive at firm conclusions revealing the limitations of representing one form as another. Language "passes through itself" in trying to convey nature, but "no word holds." Watching Joron and Hoff's ever-evolving attempts to channel Donhauser proves to be an endlessly enjoyable experience. (Feb.)