Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spotlight: Stefan George

Hello friends, in Opa's recent letter to Gisela, he is missing his German poets. He mentions that the only one he has to read in the US is Stefan George, but he's "never especially liked him before, found his poems too sentimental and contrived...but I did find a couple of his poems that did a lot for me." He attached one of those poems for Gisela. We don't know which it was, but the mention of George and Rilke did make me think about this side of Opa that I get to see here, and didn't see as much as a child. Grandmother and Opa always enjoyed and appreciated the arts, especially musicals and Opera, but I didn't know Opa had a taste for poetry.

German poetry is a thing. Transcendentalism - that's a German thing. I didn't realize this until the tone of Opa's obvious love of German poetry over most others (and especially modern American). I realized he was missing German poetry like a Russian might miss Russian ballet. It's one of the things their culture does well. 

So Stefan George. Funnily, Opa didn't really like him all that much and I think his description is fabulous because if you google Stefan George, most people who critique him have the very same critique. He was very flowery and over-the-top with his poetry. Stefan George is a controversial poet, but it depends on the article you read. So I'm going to let you read a couple: this one sort of paints George as the unwitting cultural pandora's box for the Nazi's obsession with "German Race and Culture is Better than Everything." The article discusses whether George was completely unwitting or complicit in the views and drive of the Nazis. 

The Wikipedia article (and editors) give George the benefit of the doubt, assuming George purposely distanced himself from the Nazis when they tried to capitalize on his German purity and poetry. Even some close friends of his were involved in an assassination plot against Hitler and quoted one of his poems as they planned it. 

Either way, pretty much every one seems to agree that Stefan George was a VERY strange dude. He LOVED Germany (after having a sort of affair with France). His flowery style was sort of an attempt to reclaim the old-school German. He had a cult-like following and he was really OK with that. 

I can see why Opa didn't like him- I think he was too much of a cult-personality and he wasn't serious enough. But either way I hope you read the articles and learn a little bit more about your German poets! And maybe you like the crazy poets and find a new favorite in George. 

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