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Motion on Sebald

Today The Guardian published Traffic, a poem in memory of W.G. Sebald, by Andrew Motion.  Read it here.  The poem is accompanied by a wonderful portrait of Sebald by Ulf Andersen that I have not seen before.  It is a little hard to comprehend that Sebald has been dead more than nine years now.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. anne #

    dear Terry,
    what a wonderful poem and picture to start a new year!
    thank you so much for vertigo!
    happy 2010!

    with warm regards,

    January 2, 2010
  2. Elsewhere in the Guardian, there is a remembrance of writers who died in the past decade. Pinter, Spark, Miller, Said, Sontag. My throat caught when I saw Sebald’s name; it was unexpected.

    He’s always been posthumous to me, it seems, and not simply gone nine years. But “posthumous” might be shorthand for alive and immediate in a way that time can no longer alter, like Rabelais or Montaigne or Marcus Aurelius. That I was reading him many years before he died, that I was reading him especially intensely in 2001, seems of a piece with his death (which a friend, recently, tellingly misremembered as suicide).

    I always feel so sad that he’s gone.

    January 3, 2010
  3. John W. #

    I only came to Sebald after he had already died, first through his On the Natural History of Destruction, and then through his fiction which I can find moving, curiously dull, enigmatic, bemusing, sometimes all at the same time. Over Christmas 2009 a couple of us had been talking about different froms of poetry and decided to exchange poems. I was lost for inspiration when it came to be my turn again until I read the Guardian’s pieces about Sebald which brought bak some of the experience you have on reading his works. The following was the result – obviously I never imagined it would go anywhere beyond my fellow experimenter’s email box, but I hope you don’t mind if I share it with you – having come across this site just a couple of days ago. Below is the explanation and poem as I sent to my compatriot:

    On reading the Guardian’s obituary to WG Sebald, within its review of writers taken from us by the last decade.

    The starting point is one of WG’s books which leads to a musing on planetary imagery – specifically the classical view of Mercury as the planet who releases the gift of language, and the ability to ‘merge’ ideas and language which become fluid like the metal itself when at the temperature in which we live. WG was great at layers within his work (was he more of a constructionist though than a deconstructionist I wonder), so there are four poems in one here: you can read line by line as ‘normal’ (or should I say traditional?) but you may also read the first word of each line as a poem, the second word of each line and the third word of each line as three separate vertical poems. The punctuation relates to the traditional form reading only (you will have to put in your own punctuation when reading vertically!) while the poem has a mini-word shape at the end with each vertical poem being one word shorter than the one to the left – even though the length of the words obscures the shape, it somehow seemed a good thing to do in memory of the great man.

    Rings of Saturn
    Yet mercurial rising.
    Linear skill above
    Complexity, combining Suffolk
    Pain, in ordinary
    Heuristic quicksilver language.
    Narrative dull perhaps
    Nothing and something
    Clear, real, higher
    As ever, felt
    Your thoughtfulness

    March 14, 2010

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