W.G. Sebald & Jan Peter Tripp
that elephants are
intelligent & righteous
revere the stars
& worship the sun
& the moon
This is one of a series of Micropoems (33) in this slim volume by W.G. Sebald, each one is accompanied by a pair of eyes which are actually photo realistic lithographs created by Jan Peter Tripp. Some of the individuals featured are William Burroughs, Jorge Luis Borges, Rembrandt, Francis Bacon and Javier Marias plus various other people including Sebald himself.
Most of these poems are around the 20 word mark or less and although they do not have a direct relationship to the picture, act as a dialogue between the two, with some offering a possible greater clarity to us as onlookers than others, for example these are the eyes of Proust, and the poem featured is
But the time
in which darkness
that time one
does not see
Whilst others appear to be merely chance, leaving you to form your own connections, your own dialogue with the images and lines on the page, like some interloper into the hermetic world of this small book.
There is also a great deal of information here; the translator is Michael Hamburger, a poet in his own right, who provides a translators note as an introduction to the work.
This is followed by fellow poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s contribution, two poems - one concerning Sebald the other Tripp.
Then almost like a bookend there is an essay on the work of the artist, Jan Peter Tripp by Andrea Kohler
Which brings us nicely to the artist. Sebald has described Jan Peter Tripp's art as taking realism to an almost unimaginable extreme. In an essay about Tripp's work, Sebald talked of 'the role of the observer and the observed objects being reversed. Personally my first look whilst flipping through these poems and what I presumed were photographs,when the realisation dawned that these weren’t,that they had been created by the artist’s own hands, well I didn’t know what to think, I scrutinised them, I tried to sneak up on them, quickly casting glances, when I thought they weren’t looking. I failed and went back to the words.
In deepest sleep
a Polish mechanic
came & for a
thousand silver dollars made me
a new perfectly
Some books let you in from the turning of the title page, others leave you as though on the doorstep, a foot in the door, not sure of welcome, you’re going to have to earn your entrance. Unrecounted is definitely one of the latter, you’ll peruse the images and accompanying poems, eyes gliding off the eyes on the page to the words and back again, making connections, trying to find routes into its dialogue but this is ideolectic, the patterns here are those of an individual, there probably are reference points, but like all reference points, they act as signposts to something - not the thing itself.
as though I lay
under a low
sky and breathed
through a needle’s eye.