Outsider Poems, a Mini-Anthology in Progress (50): Ernst Herbeck, “Golden ABCs,” with translation from German by Gary Sullivan

Photo credit: © Privatstiftung–Künstler aus Gugging
Photo credit: © Privatstiftung–Künstler aus Gugging

Golden ABCs

The sequence A-Z
The alphabet in order
The lock
The book order B-Y
The interim result C

A
1. A beautiful A
as it once was
is—like— an apple star
in—Vien’na (AS N)
2. A beautiful film star
is a prayer
As gladly I’s once staged (in old time VIENNA)
and as beautiful; as it once waS.
3. A A A winter that is there.
Winter, summer, autumn and rain
P l e a s e God—bounty me the apple gain.
A A A spring that is THERE.

B
B B B to separate does hurt.
always tributary in the crossroads,
the wood falls in whining odes,
B B B to separate does hurt.
B B B to separate does hurt.
Wood disheartened in the holloway,
the wood lies at the crossroads,
B B B to separate does hurt.

C
The high of C is happiness,
but love belongs to property.
Turn, turn, turn, that is C
Turn, turn, turn, there is C
love is everything passed
Had we but caught it,
Turn, Turn, Turn, there lies the C

D
D D D the mother does me harm.
Lamentful cross and much bemoaned
and the money to be loaned
D D D the mother does the harm.

E
E E E now there is snow and ice.
Winter that has begun.
Winter that has imprisoned us.
E E E now there is snow and ice.

F
This letter cannot be written
because it is not there.

G
G G G finds itself in the way
finds itself in the auto logo
because the men settle it so.
G G G finds itself at the base.

H
H H H a guesthouse that is there
every Viennese wants that as long
as they stand in the arch-of-stars.
H H H the Viennese that is near.

I
I I I an Italian cattle ranch
fat animals at the hedges
want always for aunt to ask,
I I I an Italian cattle ranch.

J
J J J now the letter is in the tea
unguarded and drowned
wants always to brew this post-renown
J J J now the letter is in the tea.

K
K K K soldiers’ question kiln.
Always blood and without sorrow
Must the son of the parents (borrow).
K K K soldiers’ question CWM.

L
L L L the Latvian question dwells,
“You want blood and other thrill”
Evenings suffer just the pill.
L L L the Latvian question dwells.

M
M M M the mother is a Pem
Always lust and without grace
Can one almost the bug case (solve)
M M M the mother is a Pem.

N
N N N the carpenter builds a shelf.
Always courage and without worry
he builds himself the wagon barge.
N N N the carpenter builds a “shelf.”

O
O O O the eyes are looking so.
Courage gone and in LETTING
one can not be letting
O O O the ears to dazzle soo.

Qu
Qu Qu Qu the frogs come into view.
look badly beaten courageless.
for something to eat on the page?
Qu Qu Qu the frogs come into view.

R
R R R the work that is, is hard
rage-suppressed and hard the work
one cannot afford BABBLE.
R R R the work that is, is hard.

S
S S S soldier’s question tess(t)
with shooting in the lesson.
one can not test—honor.
S S S soldier’s question thess.

T
T T T the tea question.
Coffee plantations without concern
cnan Japan be occluded.
T T T that is the tea question.

U
U U U now we play blind cow
Children let the play begin.
without quarreling or question.
U U U Now we play blind cow.

V
V V V this frau is a scow
Why, just ask the papa.
Whether it’s good for JAGA
V V V the frau is a SScow.

W
W W W Le projectile
ice pune uce scrine
Girl then leaves the leg(g)s
W W W Le projectile.

X
X X X the legs are in the Tom mix
kiss and biss for a nowman
But don’t you leave the flophouse
X X X the legs are in the Tom mix

Y
Y Y Y The flowers are not pretty
hedge roses and a little stilts
bird blackbird and a kitten
Y Y Y the flowers are not pretty.

Z
Z Z Z To the Mish is the Shat
always heard and also seen
Stockings stuff and that is that
Z Z Z To the MMash is the Shat
KITCHEN—

[Written May 11-15, 1968.]

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.” The portrait of Herbeck, above, is by Oswald Tschirtner (1920-2007), himself a patient at the Gugging Institute.