Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Poetry’ Category

A Valentine’s Day Attempt

It’s madness, says reason, It is what it is, says Love
(Es ist Unsinn, sagt die Vernunft, Es ist was es ist, sagt die Liebe) – Erich Fried, Was es ist

Print This Post

Two Red HeartsA drastic decrease in heart-shaped Milka boxes at Merkur combined with a sharp increase in the amount of debonair gentlemen bearing bouquets of fresh flowers throughout Vienna’s streets on the 14th of February can only mean one thing. After years of stead-fast resistance, the Austrians have finally caved in to cupid.

Ahh yes, opened up their hearts to let the sunshine in.

"It is what it is" poem from Erich Fried dedicated to a loved one on a rose bush in Vienna's Volksgarten

“It is what it is” poem from Erich Fried dedicated to a loved one on a rose bush in Vienna’s Volksgarten

And nothings says Ich liebe dich, like reciting a few of Vienna-born, Erich Fried’s poems over the candlelight dinner for two. Not a German native speaker? No worries, you can apparently get them in English (more info at the end of post).

But I know you. You’re a risk taker. And nothing says manly man like reading a love poem to your Herzilein in the original language. As my Australian friend would say – Well, good on ya! But you are still a bit worried about the accent? Don’t. Short, simple with a goo-goo eye (and hopefully ear) guarantee. She’ll be so smitten, she won’t notice your over-pronounced r’s and mix up of the i and the e. And if all else fails, remember, the more she drinks, the better you’ll sound.

But Box of Chocolateswhich poem, you ask. No worries. With Fried, you just can’t go wrong.

Just don’t forget Es ist, was es ist (It is what it is).

And as a Valentine’s present from KC to you, beloved reader, I have translated one of the poems from his book entitled, Es ist, was es ist to help you get started:

An Attempt
I tried to try

while I had to work

to think of my work

and not of you

and I am happy

that the attempt

did not succeed

Translation: KC Blau

Ein Versuch
Ich habe versucht zu versuchen  

während ich arbeiten muß

an meine Arbeit zu denken

und nicht an dich

Und ich bin glücklich

daß der Versuch

nicht geglückt ist

Who was Erich Fried?

Sadly, Erich Fried’s Vienna years ended quite suddenly and tragically. Born on May 6, 1921, Fried lived at Alserstrasse 11 in the 9th district of Vienna as a child. When he was 16 and a student at a Gymnasium in the Wasagasse, German troops occupied Austria and arrested his parents for transferring money abroad. The Nazis closed his school and separated the Jewish children. Shortly after Erich Fried’s 17th birthday, his father was released from prison but died the next day from the injuries the Gestapo inflicted on him during captivity. Two months later, in July, Fried’s family was evicted from their apartment and in August, they fled to England where they lived in exile and Erich Fried eventually adopted British citizenship.

Print This Post

Romantic that you are, you don’t give just give your lady a bouquet, you give her her very own rose bush: Here’s how to dedicate a rose bush to her in Vienna’s Volksgarten, you sly devil you.

Valentine's Bouquet of Roses

Valentine’s Bouquet of Roses

More Info about Erich Fried

Publisher’s website:


Delve into one of his books:

Fried, Erich. Es ist was es ist:

Fried, Erich. Liebesgedichte

I haven’t read this book so I can’t vouch for Stuart Hood’s English translation – whatever you do, don’t judge the book by its cheesy cover:



Edmund de Waal: Bringing to Life the Shadows of Vienna, Family and Memory

An hour with the internationally acclaimed sculptor and author of the New York Time’s Best Selling novel, The Hare with the Amber Eyes

…continues to speak like a message in a bottle, that has been cast – surely not always in the powerfully hopeful – belief, it could wash up on land somewhere, sometime, on a heartland perhaps.
Paul Celan  (Bremen Speech (1958) see German version on  Planet Lyrik )

Netsuke of a Dog (image from Wikicommons)

Netsuke of a Dog (image from Wikicommons)

When Edmund de Waal’s ancestors fled Austria decades ago, I doubt any of them could have imagined the reception he would receive in the Vienna Museum of Art History (Kunsthistorisches Museum) on a very cold and wet Monday evening in January. The waiting list began weeks before his scheduled talk and I barely managed to finagle a spot after an initial “Sorry, we’re full.”

Vienna Art History Museum, Austria

Vienna Art History Museum, Austria

The place was packed and at first, all the fold-out chairs taken. A friend and I assumed standing room in the very back of the grand black and white marbled hall and were eventually rescued by a kind security guard who rearranged a long red velvet bench for us. Finally a good view.

I admit, the crowd surprised me. After all, the museum pamphlet description promised a yawn-evoking evening at best (here a quick and dirty translation of the German):

For the series “Artist Choice”, author of the best-selling novel, “The Hare with the Amber Eyes” and successor of the Euphrussi family will curate an exhibit with objects from our collection. De Waal is fascinated with the sometimes labyrinthine paths that museum objects take and the changing meanings that often go along with them. In addition, he will address the history of the objects’ owners.”

Well, yes, he did do that.

But such a description is akin to describing Lincoln’s Gettysburg address as a cemetery dedication. Because de Waal’s talk was not a bunch of historical facts strung together about lifeless objects. No. His talk felt more like an appeal of a great master to his students to do more when journeying through life.

His message? Open your eyes. Recognize connections. Draw out the shadows hiding in the corners and bring them back to life. Frame the seemingly insignificant and hang it on the wall. Remember to pause and bring forth the dab of gold in the background. Recognize the breathturns and blank spaces of the page as a significant part of the text’s message.

Charles Ephrussi, by Jean Patricot, 1905 (Image in Public Domain, Wikicommons)

Charles Ephrussi, by Jean Patricot, 1905 (Image in Public Domain, Wikicommons)

De Waal asks, “What do you do with the responsibility that comes with the pursuit of memory?” He says he embarked on his research seeking perhaps some “pseudo-American closure of the whole bloody thing” that happened to his family before, during and after fleeing the Nazis. But rather than bringing De Waal closer to a conclusion the story and his investigations drew him ever deeper, ever further, until at some point, he (and no doubt, much to her dismay, his wife as well) must have realized there would never really be a closure, just more layering.

De Waal’s talk was a masterpiece of sadness, humor, reverence, incomprehension, resilience and forgiveness. The location was touchingly suitable – downright fitting that his words should echo through the same halls that house masterpieces by Raphael, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Rubens, Dürer and Bruegel – and hundreds of other objects that embody all the different kinds of lives he mentioned – lives that eternally and simultaneously exist in ever-changing landscapes of meaning evolving from the creator to each individual beholder, day in and day out, for centuries. Messages in a bottle cast in the hopes of landing somewhere, sometime in someone’s heart.

Thank you, Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna for finding a spot for me on the guest list. And thank you, Edmund de Waal for opening our hearts, minds and eyes in your hour long layering of memory in a city where every cobblestone is layered with hundreds of years of hundreds of people’s memories – some beautiful and others terribly, incomprehensibly tragic.

Print This Post

Eternally Vienna

Roses in Burggarten

Roses in Burggarten

Wien, Wien

Heart pounding, cheeks flushing

Like the very first time

cafe and Kebab, Fiaker and Schnitzel

treading lightly into an unwritten future through streets trodden with the  past

lanes orchestrating

Prater's Riesenrad

Prater’s Riesenrad

life encounters

arteries pulsating

joy and sorrow

Donaukanal’s winter wind stinging,

Augarten’s black ravens singing,

Burggarten’s roses soothing

Fiaker, Horse drawn carriages, in Vienna

Fiaker at St. Stephan’s Cathedral

and Gloriette’s morning view

Bahr, Kraus, Altenberg, Schnitzler

Who has defined you?

all and none

being what you want to be

when the time comes to be it

I come to you and you leave with me

Vienna's Imperial Palace

Vienna’s Imperial Palace

to love you, impossible

to not, unthinkable

you give, you take

you heal, you break

Tombstone in Central Cemetery

Tombstone in Central Cemetery – “I love you, my Vienna”

you taunt, you charm

and go on and on

Immerwährende Wien. Immerwährende Wien. Print This Post