I could hardly let the day pass without mentioning the passing of Georg Trakl, 100 years ago today. As well as a reading at Vienna’s Haus Wittgenstein, the stark white box designed by Trakl’s patron Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Austrian poet is remembered in a year-long commemoration in Salzburg, where he was born in 1887. Numerous readings, films, performances, conferences and concerts attest to the enduring cross-disciplinary influence of Trakl, who only produced one book of poetry in his brief lifetime. Earlier in the year a chamber opera based on the poet’s life, written by Hans Kraus-Hübner, was performed in the courtyard of Trakl’s natal house, where more recently the Georg Trakl Award for art was awarded to another Salzburg local, Daniel Domig.
Over at the Public Domain Review, Richard Millington has an enlightening article on the impact of drugs on Trakl’s work, particularly the one with which he would end his life. In his last poem, “Grodek”, we find “the most definite link between Trakl’s poetry and his cocaine use,” according to Millington. It takes its name from the theatre of a bitter battle between Russian and Austrian forces in September 1914. The traumatic experience of caring for severely wounded soldiers during this conflict led Trakl to essay his own extinction, which he finally achieved on 3 November 1914.
At evening the autumn woodlands ring
With deadly weapons. Over the golden plains
And lakes of blue, the sun
More darkly rolls. The night surrounds
Warriors dying and the wild lament
Of their fragmented mouths.
Yet silently there gather in the willow dell
Red clouds inhabited by an angry god,
Shed blood, and the chill of the moon.
All roads lead to black decay.
Under golden branching of the night and stars
A sister’s shadow sways through the still grove
To greet the heroes’ spirits, the bloodied heads.
And softly in the reeds Autumn’s dark flutes resound.
O prouder mourning! – You brazen altars,
The spirit’s hot flame is fed now by a tremendous pain:
The grandsons, unborn.