Exploring longing, lust for life, ageing, mortality, grief, and flowers in her inimitable late style, études is a diary-like sequence of poems by one of the greatest living Austrian poets. Friederike Mayröcker’s almost daily entries give us a unique view into the interplay between desire and her motivation for writing. In Mayröcker’s case, she writes both to keep a vanished world present and to exploit the possibilities of being present for constant experimentation.
The poems in this volume are not only studies of how the mind works, moving from fragment to fragment, but also experiments with techniques of repetition, typography, collage, and quotation. Mayröcker transform the humble page into spaces of radical openness. After all, she says, a poem is that which ‘opens everything up’. Each poem is date-stamped, and each date acts as a kind of permission for Mayröcker to pour in everything from notes on doctor’s visits to gorgeously structured elegies to obsessively repeating fragments of memory that act upon the whole like bits of recurring melody.
Rarely before has the intimate process of writing been so exquisitely laid bare than in études. Traversing the boundaries of literary forms with Mayröcker’s distinctive style, this important volume strikes an admirable balance between playfulness and serious inquiry.
‘Friederike Mayrocker enjoys a growing reputation as a writer whose art insistently crosses the boundaries between literary forms. Her prose is lyrical, and draws on the work of a wide range of modernist writers, from Gertrude Stein to Virginia Woolf. Beckett and Thomas Bernhard have also influenced her style of bombarding the reader with a mixture of realistic and fantastic images. The device forces the reader to participate in the mental drama which supplants narrative in her work.’—Times Literary Supplement
‘The perfection of the life or the perfection of the work: these are the options Yeats set before his fellow poets. It was, he knew, an impossible choice. A life perfected one day disappears, unrecorded. A work can survive but only if one sacrifices one’s life to perfecting it. It is a circle that cannot be squared. Few writers have had the audacity to even attempt it. One of them, the Austrian experimental poet Friederike Mayröcker, is currently in the seventh decade of a career devoted to erasing the distinction between life and work.’—Ryan Ruby, Poetry Foundation. Read this excellent essay on Mayröcker’s body of work here.
‘Two of the most frequently used words when attempting to describe [the reading] experience seem to be “hallucinatory” and “magical”. These are not adjectives that come easily to modern and post-modern critics but they are accurate descriptions of the almost physical effect brought about by immersing oneself in the waterfall-like bombardment of [Mayröcker’s] poetry. The range of her poems, and the baroque nature of her imagery, is dizzying: we are taken, often within the space of a line or two, from surrealist fantasy to detailed naturalistic observation, from a reminder to see the oculist to heartfelt elegy.’—Jeremy Over, New Books in German
‘Mayröcker’s work is a kind of continuous torrent of freely associative, passionate language in the service of private obsessions.’—Peter Sirr, Poetry Ireland Review
‘Tumult, ferocity, ﬂow, exaltation, immersion: Friederike Mayröcker, among the world’s greatest living writers, reinterprets literary vocation as total theater. Swimming through the language-tide, she cuts syntax into new folds and undulations. Responding to her gestural commands, words form constellations, clusters, diaristic strings of inference.’—Wayne Koestenbaum
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