Poetry News

Ernst Herbeck's “Golden ABCs” at Jacket2

By Harriet Staff


If you reached the end of the recently published collection of Ernst Herbeck's poems, Everyone Has a Mouth (translated by Gary Sullivan and published by Ugly Duckling Presse), and, like us, wanted more More MORE! then surf over to Jacket2 to check out his “Golden ABCs.” We'll let you read the poem yourself, but will lead into the jump with the note:

NOTE: The force in Herbeck’s poems is in the consistent eruptions of the unexpected against a base language that seems deceptive in its presumed simplicities. His public recognition as an outsider poet, as with others so designated, has too often substituted a clinical approach to what would be seen in other poets as works of exploratory & liberatory daring, at the edge of experimental writing for his place & time. A first selection of translations by Gary Sullivan, himself a significant American experimentalist, has recently appeared in Everyone Has a Mouth from Ugly Duckling Presse, with the promise of many more to come. In the Presse’s summary notice: “Ernst Herbeck (October 9, 1920-September 11, 1991) was a well-loved Austrian poet who was institutionalized at the Marie Gugging Psychiatric Institute on the outskirts of Vienna. He was encouraged to write poetry by Gugging's Head Clinician, Leo Navratil, a champion of naive art who would later establish Gugging's Haus der Künstler, or Artists' House. From 1960 until Herbeck's death in 1991, Navratil prompted Herbeck to write some 1,200 poems, always providing the poet with a theme, which often, though not always, became the poem's title. With Herbeck's permission, Navratil edited and published several books of Herbeck's poetry; a year after Herbeck's death, Navratil edited Herbeck's collected writings, Im Herbst da reiht der Feenwind (In Fall the Wind-of-Fairies Aligns), from which the poems in Everyone Has a Mouth were chosen.”