March 2, 2016

Michael Donhauser

Michael Donhauser (Austria)

Born in 1956 in Vaduz, Liechtenstein, Michael Donhauser grew up as an Austrian citizen in that country, where he attended both elementary and high school.

     In 1976 he moved to Vienna where he studied both German and French, graduating in 1984 after writing a thesis on Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleus du Mal.
     Beginning in 1986, with the publication of the prose poems, Der Holunder (The Elder). Since then he has published numerous books of poetry and fiction, as well as translations into German of Arthur Rimbaud and Francis Ponge.
     Ponge particularly is a major influence on Donhauser’s  Von den Dingen of 1993, translated into English in 2015 as Of Things by Burning Deck press. Among his books of fiction are Edgar. Erzählungen of 1987, Livia oder Die Reise of 1996, and Variationen in Prosa in 2013.
      Donhauser, who continues to live in Vienna, has won several major awards, among them the Christine Lavant Poetry Prize, the Mondsee Poetry Prize, the Ernst Jandl Prize, and Georg Trakl Prize for Poetry.


Der Holunder (Graz: Droschl, 1986); Die Wörtlichkeit der Quitte (Graz: Droschl, 1990); Dich noch und. Liebes- und Lobgedichte (Munich: Hanser, 1993); Von den Dingen (Munich: Hanser, 1993); Sarganserland (Basel: Urs Engeler Editor, 1999); Ich habe lange nicht doch nur an dich gedacht (Basel: Urs Engeler Editor, 2005); Schönste Lieder (Basel: Urs Engeler Editor, 2007); Nahe der Neige (Basel: Urs Engeler Editor, 2009)


Of Things (trans. by Andrew Jaron and Nick Hoff) (Providence, Rhode Island: Burning Deck, 2015)

from The Literalness af the Ouincs

== Michael Donhauser

Translated by Andrew Joron

The Cabinet

Thus, opened to an A and shut again, it stands.

Tall, wide, deep in the room, a provisional piece of steadfastness.

Of pinewood.

Whose numerous eyes lie like deep-brown islands or island-chains in the

river of its grain.

It reposes in itself.

No afternoon seems able to find fault with it, no appeal would coax it forth

now from its silent being.

Is its secure position in the world of work the ultimate reason for its


It remains, unanswered, not spreading its wings, its doors, in order to flap


To take to the air like some crow

It just coos when I open it, and displays the linen, for which it serves as

dungeon or jailer.

Square-built, heavy-set, it's concerned only with its task, to close into itself

every chaotic swirl for the sake of a quiet orderliness.

Only toward evening, while reminiscing about its origins, its travels as a

steamer trunk, does it give off an otherworldly glow.

It creaks if I lay a hand upon it, intending to shift it.

In this way it persists in its steadfastness, so I leave it alone.

As a kind of head adornment it wears my hat, two bottles of wine, a quince,

a candelabrum.

Picket Fence

It is first of all, has been, here separates me picket by picket.

From you, if anything like "in back ot: in front of" still existed.

Partitions and intervals, light and shadow:

I have learned, to have lost myselt: to lose.

In the exactitude, with which it varies the eternal sameness.

Or might find, in the crookedly hammered nailheads, the trace.

Once again, scarred over, rusted black, cross after cross.

Concealed, interwoven with hedges, woodpiles, meadows, mead.

Between them, now and again, its substance shines ofl:.white, and


Thin timbers fallen into a beyond, into still another Garden.


Morning is when I watch and wait.

Begins with the first apprehension of gray; a pale transparenc)T.

So is somewhat hesitant, veiled in its very inception.

There's no bursting-forth that it would proclaim.

Slowly, it bares the day; isolates the sounds.

Transforms all that is spoken into the subtitles of its mute labor.

Or still repeats, in residuals, the erstwhile rooster.

In the clattering of beer crates, in the slamming of doors.

Otherwise every point of orientation goes missing.

It dissolves all remembering in favor of visibili~

Of distinctness, of frontal facades.

Finally I'm left with only an inkling of it.

Like of a morning as morning in morning.

The Stone

Impossible to write about it in the plural without losing its monosyllabic

quality.* Here too, then, it shapes itself by a series of negations.

It does not point backward, through fissures; shows no that remain

unrounded; its origins are erased by the age-old influence of water.

Thus: from its power of opposition is taken everything conspicuous,

everything close at hand like, perhaps, the act of breaking it by means of


It even withstands comparison to a potato, which peeled, damaged by the

cut of a spade, riddled by what was likely a worm could shed light on it.

No skin, slightly yellowed or as frosted-glass clear mosaic, that protects it, to

which its tesselations bear a likeness; few its furrows that resemble only those

of a skin.

Facet by facet brighter, reflective: so what results is the illusion of a

transparenc~ of a time before the muteness of the present became fixed

within it, tangible.

Placed in the hand, it allows its never-to-be-completed form to be perceived,

to be reconstructed by turnings and rubbings.

With its aroma, it holds fast even the most ephemeral: the first cooling at the

start of a storm, when such arises, almost boiling.

Otherwise no remembering, only the urge to throw it, to cause its hardness

to take effect beyond speech.

* Translator's note: In German, the plural of "stone" is a word of two syllables (Steine).

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