Poetry Comes to Museum XLIII: Meet the Poetry of Ron Winkler: We Still Have a Lot of Exits


Activity Curator

Wang Yin


Hu Xudong


Ron Winkler

About the Poet

Ron Winkler, a German poet, writer, editor, criticizer and one of the most important German translator of American contemporary poetry. Born in 1973, he got his master degree of literature and history from Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Germany, and he now lives in Berlin. Ron is a writer that owns both the ability to bring breakthroughs to the traditional German poetry and international vision, which is a precious feature in German contemporary times. In his poems he demonstrates in a sometimes hilarious, sometimes unsettling way how an ever greater part of what in the previous century we used to call 'reality' for the sake of convenience, has been expanded and shrunk to a virtual universe in which the tactile and audible are constantly zapped, sampled, filtered and twittered. He has published numerous novels and poem collections, and has been rewarded lots of prizes including Leonce-und-Lena poetry prize, München prize, Moon Lake prize, etc. His works have been translated into 21 languages, in which Chinese and Ukraine versions have been published. Winkler is the founder of the poetry magazine intendenzen. He is also creating a furore as a poetry translator, and he recently edited Schwerkraft (Gravity), an anthology of poetry by young Americans.

What does poetry mean to you, and does childhood experience have any impact on your poetry creation?

Poetry is beyond. Beyond things and thoughts. Itʼs where certainty turns into stabilizing incertitude, and where uncertainty becomes a cipher for knowing — often at once.
Poetry is the squint which focuses on something particular and simultaneously on things not directly said, but touched and staged in the background. 
The German word for poetry — Poesie — describes not only a literary art form. Poesie means a certain quality of accessing the world. A vibrant, convulsive moment. In that sense, a poem does not need to be poetry, and vice versa. A single line alone can provide poetry to a poem. Even a special void within a poem is able to establish the unnameable, to deliver poeticity.
You cannot catch the spirit of poetry; itʼs a genie of its own concerns. Sometimes open to us, sometimes obscure. In a poem poetry is always only the peak of the iceberg. You have to follow it through to get to its hidden parts.
Poetry is always ahead of us — like in the fairytale where the rabbit tries to catch up with the hedgehog and fails, because the latter is always ahead of it. (Save that itʼs actually two hedgehogs hoaxing him.) Poetry can be that kind of hoax, in a good way. It is multiple, it has different volumes at the same time, and it is always gone further already.
Thatʼs what I like: the courtship with possibilities. The construction of clarity/ uniqueness and alongside a rich variety of options.
I enjoy poetry most when itʼs overwhelming, astounding, exuberant, even if restricted into something minimalistic. The tension between oppositions is what teases me. A frenetic kind of silence, and an overdose of information, which is the only way of capturing a very moment — between those poles poetry happens.
And it pockets all dramaturgical means imaginable: the cinematic, the adventurous, mystery, documentation, addressing oneʼs senses, aperçu, humour, tricking, the good old magic of the irrational, and so on.
There was a point in my childhood where I discovered the potential of a language with a velocity different from everyday speech. I was fond of irony and culminating and de-contextualizing things, and of choosing words rather than just following their appearance.
In addition, childhood has been an important topic ever since. As a source for narrative poems, but furthermore for finding out about a time in the past and for highlighting the origins of the persona I create(d) (if not of myself): how my persona became what it is or what it seems to be.
In fact Iʼm turning towards childhood again more intensively. To both re-discover and invent autobiography. And to illustrate the impact of the political system on a young utopian adult searching his own way.

What impact does your city have on your writing? Please talk about your understanding of a wide range of meaningful cities.
Somehow, the effects of living in a major city have been decreasing over the years. You are more used to that kind of setting, used to the dose of impacts.
You could say you lose touch with its dynamics, but then again you are not taken in by its infatuation.
Itʼs not such a bad thing after all — a poet should be free from transforming his surroundings tête-à-tête. Thatʼs hardly helpful. In that way, I still keep abreast with both the small and large changes in Berlin, but I hesitate in turning them into some inevitably expressionistic poetry. I prefer relying on metropolitan experience in general. But thatʼs not the only way of course.
Surprisingly, being in the countryside can stir you up much more! Because your mind is able to sharpen the contours (of every experience ʽexportedʼ thither).
Cities are places where our destination is determined. And thatʼs what Iʼm interested in. What happens to us? As a society and as individuals. Where is the beauty in daily life? Is there such a thing as exoticism, or is the foreign just the familiar with a different face? Speed and mass are as important as the least task of some random human being.
In cities new to me Iʼm open to signs of irritation, but also to moments of similarity. Poetry can turn those experiences into subtle mirrors. Buenos Aires as a mega-city has inspired me a lot, even if only for a single poem. Cities like Paris are to be reacted to differently, due to the diverging levels of history and sights and context. But as everywhere: I can switch off that virtual obligation to have to write about something. Iʼm a photographer as well, and sometimes a city leans more into being captured by a camera.

What do you think about the relationship between poetry writing and current life?
To keep those two connected is one of my main concerns. Thatʼs what enables poetry to be right at the heart of our time: to deal with what affects and distorts our contemporary state of mind: haunted by global mechanisms, medial overdrivenness, alienation from situations we used to know, inner-societal particularization, the simultaneity of the non-simultaneous and the like. Nowadays a fun fact from the other end of the world is as present as local news, which is why we are everywhere and nowhere. We are simply swamped. This loss of control can be a very productive energy to write poems. About and beyond. How we are violated and nonetheless utopistic. How we struggle to stay human in a rather inhumane world. And how our ambitions lead to failure, yet reveal the range of our abilities, the depth of our emotions and the virtuosity of thought.
The world is full of improbabilities which have come true. But still, there are many ways out. And many ways for literature, to guide and enlighten. And to entertain, not only by translating all these improbabilities into a poetic wonderland.


Selected poems 

for Lara Crespo

I circumslept the city, chemicated oranges
and saw Argonautinians
with a product portfolio of saints and flasks
of air freshener, my pockets
full of ice I ditched the
clouds and burroed the milk, proclaimed
Czernowitz to the cattle,
which grazed, grazed on its backwater
ciphers and left me their smile,
my primetime ratings spiked,
I was like a cicada bodega for certain
of the locals’ associates: Crusader astronomers,
soap-bubble activists
who blew my hearts sky-high,
except affixing stamps was a little
tricky and not a post office in sight, still
everywhere the streets had rusty streaks
out to the horizon, although we here
habited the Sweetern Hemisphere, women in diadems
made of ten bifocals, sitting up front
in silktree-lined buses, reading
the paper cover to
covered by goodie-bag wrap,
at Proustport they coolly sacrificed madeleines,
then I was photobombed
in their God picture
and they nursed bovine smiles about it,
saying my haircut had blessed
me to excess,
meanwhile the light consisted
of assorted forms
of transparency, I dropped an anchor dream—
that being the realm
of chlorine dispensers, cloven coptrotters
and the yet-to-be-jotted—
then poured snow cream dust on agaves
with their oh-so-little wings
(they barely flew)
and told the kioskeros
through my drowsiness:
you guys have lots of rasta to go,
just wait.

since it’s New York

New York is not the city that never sleeps.  New York
is the city where practically nobody exists.
where consequently hardly anyone’s afraid.  New York is a mania
made of twenty-two automatic Brooklyns.  of 5.2
to the 1.3 power Manhattans.  of gaseous Hudson.
the people picnic on picnic piers, in elevators, parks,
in tranquility, in fresh homelessness, in their handbags
post-industrial oil.  New York oil. New York aerosol.
New-York-Get-Lost.  buildings that seem treated
with Country Western.  near-amphetamine sidewalks.
iron sneers, skypokers — Jesus in Wonderland!
here boys lived and worked who graduated college
to get mustaches.  here girls live and work
whose arrogance has exponential consequences.  New York,
it isn’t only the tenants and the tenants’ murderers,
it’s also the elevators’ closed eyelids
on level zero. Yankee sex in broad daylight.  New
York is not a york that’s new.  New York’s
the batteries in the airport users’ picture-takers.
New York’s the city where among other words God
can only be screamed.  you encounter New York
driving from New York to New York.  or
out of Neon into the Bronx.  the city is in the family
of museums of modern despair.  you can read that
in its face.  you can’t read that in its face.  New York spoons
itself. and isn’t the mystery of Frisco.
can’t be.  the climate resembles the future too closely.
some believe New York sleeps like a hummingbird
that thinks it’s an anvil. sleeps in a state
of wakefulness.  you know.  New York of highest blues and
deepest reds.  and green Dollar-New-York.  yellow blooming
Taxi-Popup-New-York, reminiscent of the corn painters
back in the first America.  the medicinal troubadours
of Utica.  was their type truly New York?  just walk once
down a torpedo avenue, through which the countryside
is in fact transported into the city. move yourself
through it like a mixture of unstringent life-wolf and
introsect.  since it is New York.

Poetry Comes to Museum

Nowadays, art museums are providing with more and more kinds of art in not only the exhibition but also the atmosphere where the scholars could produce new knowledge and the public may be educated more actively, which make art museum a platform to contain all art. Poetry Comes to Museum was launched in 2012 by Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum, which aims to provide an open platform for poets and poetry lovers to talk to each other, and therefore connects the poetry closely to our current life. As the first project that combines art with poetry, we invite top poets at home and abroad to share their creation with the public. This project has drawn a lot of attention with the academic and popular lectures and activities held since its beginning, and was awarded the Annual Event Award of 2013 Culture China by the Oriental Morning Post.

Poets Invited till Now

Huang Canran, Ouyang Jianghe, Simon Armitage, Zhai Yongming, Li Yawei, Wang Xiaoni, أدونيس‎, Shuntarou Tanikawa, Germain Droogenbroodt, Xi Chuang, Yang Junlei, Duo Duo, Lan Lan, Chen Dongdong, Adam Foulds, Liang Xiaoming, Shen Wei, Song Lin, Bai Hua, Tim Lilburn, Aleš Šteger, Lv Dean, Ni Zhange, Mang Ke, Jan Erik Vold, Wang Jiaxin, Víctor Rodríguez Núñez, Nicola Madzirov, Fei Leping, Bao Huiyi, Zhu Zhu, Wan Xia, Hong Hong, Yolanda Castaño, Terrance Hayes, Hachikai Mimi, Harry Clifton, Tomasz Różycki, Leng Shuang, Guan Guan, Sang Ke, Chen Li