D.he last letter went nowhere; the request to Friederike Mayröcker to take part in our series “Dante’s Verse” went unanswered. Also from Edith Schreiber, her close confidante, who took care of all questions relating to communication with the outside world. That was unusual, Friederike Mayröcker took the commandments of courtesy very seriously, they were part of her inner world. From then on, she became very concerned about her, and it did not diminish when it was announced that she had to leave Zentagasse, that one and a half room apartment in Vienna’s fifth district in which she had lived since 1953, next door to her poet colleague and for many years Life man Ernst Jandl. In which she had mainly written because she didn’t like to do it anywhere else, morning after morning, before dew and day, when nothing distracted her.
So it came as no surprise that one had to hear that she didn’t want to write anymore after moving to a nursing home. But how should one imagine Friederike Mayröcker’s life without that? Her life was writing. “Anyway,” she once said to her colleague and friend Marcel Beyer, “I’ll keep working as long as I can.”
1 brush in the flower pot
A sample of this work in the Zentagasse, written in 2014 for this newspaper, as a review of another writing in the same place that was almost a decade and a half ago: “Bird without folds, 2 white stones, 1 undergrowth in a flower pot. In the early morning of June 4th, 2000, I am sitting at the kitchen table and hear the call of the oriole. 1 biszchen meadow landscape. On the tablecloth, printed with red amaryllis flowers, I write 1 poem while the house phone is ringing: EJ asks me to come, I interrupt my work – although the beginning of the poem is based on the sight of a painting by the painter Maria Gruber in the white (recessed) areas are my lilies of the valley revelation. Although the beginning of the poem goes back to the visit to my doctor Herwig Niessner who bows and folds his hands when I enter the practice = communion of the lilac rabbit I want to dip my soul written 5 days before EJ’s death. “
Elfriede Mayröcker called this her own form of compaction instead of condensation “Proem”. In English, this describes an introduction that a writer writes to his own text. In fact, the passage just quoted was Mayröcker’s explanation of his own poem – the one that was written on June 4, 2000 and when Jandl, the EJ from this memory, bothered her when it was written. But in German you read the word “Proem” as a neologism, a combination of prose and poem.
Nobody wrote like Friederike Mayröcker. Not even Ernst Jandl, with whom the Viennese, who was born on December 20, 1924, had a symbiotic relationship with him since the age of thirty that has no equal in German-language literary history. Once again, two days later in that year 2000, on June 6th, only three days before his death, Friederike Mayröcker pictured the commonality poetically when she continued four older lines by Jandl under the impression of living together as follows:
(“It’s cold in the kitchen
it is now a severe winter
little mother is not at the stove
and I shiver like a horse “EJ)
we both stand in the kitchen
stir in the empty pot
both look out the window
have 1 poem in mind
Both have a poem on their mind, but not the same thing. The collaboration between the two English teachers, who could not give up their job at first, did not result in a school in the sense that their poetry would have assimilated one another. Jandl was and remained the wordplayer, Mayröcker the word magician. With this, however, they set a course, for example in the influence of Marcel Beyer, to name only the most important admirer and, if you will, pupil. “Friederike Mayröcker’s work has changed my view of the world, it determines my literature to this day,” he wrote in this newspaper (FAZ June 29, 2016). It should be the same for all readers of her poems, prose and prose, as well as the audience of her radio plays. The sound of this language is incomparable and unforgettable.
Her poetry debut appeared in 1956: “Larifari – A Confused Book”. It was her only one for ten years. But then the readers finally caught fire at this exploding desire for language, it came out book after book, and in 1979 Friederike Mayröcker found Suhrkamp, henceforth her in-house publisher. In 2020 the last work to be published there during his lifetime “da ich m Morgen und Mossgrün. Step to the window ”, and the peculiar spelling of the title takes up the peculiarity of these morning-fresh notes from a mid-nineties: They all start in lower case, often as if in the middle of a sentence, and they end without a final point. If one had to find a generic term for it, Impressionism would be an option, and this term would also involve the risk of such literature being created: receptivity. The last notation of the book, written on November 3, 2019, is the shortest, and it only reads: “woe me: my eye,”
Today we know that this was the funeral song for Friederike Mayröcker’s letter. The loss of eyesight cut her off from the creative view of the world, no matter how isolated she lived – “I always wanted everything to stay the way it was, I hated goodbyes and I hated changes,” she said in 2010. But she knew why she was writing this in the simple past. Her last books, especially the triad “études”, “cahier” and “fleurs”, are bursting with curiosity in self-talk. One would have liked to listen to her forever, but yesterday Friederike Mayröcker died at the age of ninety-six in Vienna.