Poetry Without Comeback

By Gert Hof

The foreword to Messer, Till Lindemann’s book of poetry.  Translated by Jackie White as a tribute to Lindemann’s lifelong friend and collaborator, Gert Hof.


It is relatively rare at breakfast to be faced with the choice of drinking either petrol or freshly squeezed orange juice.  Somehow even considering these alternatives causes a person to start taking a step back from reality.  I think the decision would have been easier had the waiter posed this question:  Raskolnikov*.  Lindemann had already decided.  I came across Lindemann sometime in Spring 1995.  It wasn’t a normal conversation, somewhat cautious.  Lindemann had something special:  you could remain in perfect silence around him.  There was no unease with this; rather a longing in place of social convention, one that needed no articulation, that instead ran blood deep .  It was a start.  Months later, Lindemann showed me his first poems – an initial sign of trust.

Whilst reading these poems, I quickly noticed they did not slot between either Gottfried Benn or Vladimir Majekovsky, nor anywhere else.  They were poems by Till Lindemann.  At the beginning of this year we had the idea of making a book from such poems.  The poems were written between 1995 and 2002.  Out of over a thousand poems, I chose the ones published here.   This anthology appears here, its  world premiere.   I could truly have published them all – the others will follow, later.  The photos are a world unto themselves, a closed, artistic world – a theatrical scene.  The reason for this?  The poems.   The photographs were taken primarily for the collection of poems and are published here for the first time.  A movement of one artistic figure with other artistic figures in an artificial world.  A journey within a strange, peculiar scenery.  The photos are not meant to represent the actual poems themselves.  Picture and poetry together make possible a new, subjective landscape.  The poems are like a rip that tears through reality.  They tell tales of situations either above or below the average room temperature.  Lindemann’s poems are verbal executions, poetic suicide, like a guillotine to words.  There are wounds of despair and hope.  Fleeting thoughts full of isolation from a heart full of courage, locked within its own sense of longing.  A foil against mediocrity,  against hypocrisy.  A lyrical statement, an embodiment.

Lindemann’s lyrics cannot and should not be viewed  as  a solution to problems.  They act as flares; for a moment they can slice the night like a light scalpel, no more, yet nothing less.  These poems are their own worst enemy.  They contain a moral superiority that carries no hope for the individual.  Perhaps they can mediate pain – our one true lifelong companion.  These poems describe the structure of fear, the degree of combustion of dreams,  and the destruction of human relationships – a material collection of passion.   Within this quietude, they explore chambers, in which we have buried our past.  Battleships departing against a tide of broken heaven within us.

In a time, in which German contemporary prose has become a pseudo-intellectual  twin of the bear in Zwickau Zoo** , Lindemann’s verses evoke a storm of flames, that plume high from the North over an oasis of night.  Rhythmic sentences with no lack of compromise taking energy from an organic pacemaker.  These are tunnels from the cries of eradicated time.  A modern exorcism that expels through the veins of our souls.  Resounding echoes in the walls of our pain.  Poetry without comeback, entirely self validating.  Lindemann speaks of wounds during those times  of betrayal.  Words are boiled alive in a cauldron of blood.  As if vocal chords have been sliced and diced in the stone chamber of the heart.  How could anyone ever write any differently when carrying the stigma of a nail tattoo upon the retina?

We (and German lyrics in general) would be much poorer without these poems.  The power of these verses blows in from an open window and reignites in us the embers of burnt -out fire.  Lindemann’s poems are self assured;  without vanity, opportunity or cowardly traits.  Lindemann is a consummate thinker, an honest being, a trustworthy friend.  For your trust and your friendship, I sincerely thank you.


*Raskolnikov is the fictional protagonist of Crime and Punishment by T.  Dostoyevsky (source: Wikipedia)

**This reference could be relating to the bear as a wider symbol to Berlin, which adopted a black bear in its coat-of-arms.  The very name Berlin could mean ‘little bear’ Baer-lein, but this is unproven folklore.