Monika Rinck’s Frankfurt poetics lectures

WIf the pandemic were a text, how would we read it? That is the wrong question. Next attempt: if the pandemic were text, how would we read it? Much better. In which traditions, with which means, which knowledge interests and which knowledge-promoting instruments do we approach the texts of the world and the world of texts – especially when they pretend to be about our future? If everything is not wrong, that is what Monika Rinck’s lectures on “Poetics and Predictions” will be about. Amongst other things. Two out of three lectures remain to be seen. “The prediction is made in verse”, is an early Rinck sentence on this Tuesday evening when the Frankfurt poetics lecture is not taking place in the lecture hall for the first time, but on the Internet. It undoubtedly has what it takes to be a leitmotif. Prose prognosis is therefore forbidden at this point.

They would also be superfluous. Seldom before has an opening lecture at this traditional location offered such an abundance of thoughts, questions, connections and references. The pace is enormous. Within the first few minutes, Rinck comes from Walter Benjamin via the linguist Émile Benveniste and the Argentine writer César Aira to the literary scholar Monika Schmitz-Emans and the ancient historian Kai Trampedach, whose book on “Political Mantik” leads back to Benjamin’s initial ideas. The first circle has come full. More will follow. But maybe they’re not circles at all, but rather boxes. This lecture is titled “Predictions – Poetry and Predictions” and it follows the principle of the jumping game called Hinkelkasten, also known as Heaven and Hell. The simple variant has nine fields. Will Monika Rinck get along with it?

Hop left and right

The first box, the Benjamin box, is about the oldest form of reading: reading before writing, when fate and future were read from bones, entrails and the flight of birds: “Let’s look inside the animals,” says Monika Rinck , but prefers to show some “ornithographies” by the Spanish photographer Xavi Bou, who made the patterns of bird flights visible in his pictures. During the less than one hour lecture, she faded in illustrations a good fifty times: book pages with underlining by her hand and, above all, photographs. With Benveniste she traces the etymologies of the ambiguous concept of reading and quotes an abysmal sentence by Aira, according to which anyone who regards reading as a purely identifying process is subject to a delusion. We are already identified, says Aira, and read “to de-identify ourselves”.

With Schmitz-Emans she is looking for a way out of the “suction of the scripts” and asks about the “self-discovery” of the reader. Then she returns – hop to the left – with Trampedach’s study of the gods and oracles in classical Greece and at the same time leads – hop to the right – to the “duck oracle”, a poem of its own. She will come back to this in the third part of her Frankfurt Poetics Lecture, in which she will turn to “the future and its (poetic and non-poetic) language”. The next time it will be about “neo-futuristic traits of contemporary poetry”, with special consideration of the perspective of sustainability and waste.

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