August Stramm (1874-1915)

Heute vor 100 Jahren fiel August Stramm bei einem Kampfeinsatz in Rußland, im heutigen Weißrußland. Die Verdienste des August Stramm um die Dichtkunst sind sehr, wußte schon Schwitters. Die FAZ kritisierte gestern völlig zu recht, daß es in seiner Heimatstadt Münster immer noch keine nach ihm benannte Straße gibt.

Im schätzenswertesten Zentrum der Digitalisierung von Kulturschätzen im deutschen Raum, bei der Bayrischen Staatsbibliothek in München, gibt es den postumen Gedichtband „Tropfblut“ von 1915 zum kostenlosen Download. Die Sturm-Bücher ErwachenGeschehen, Die Unfruchtbaren, Kräfte, den Klavierauszug der Oper Sancta Susanna (Vertonung Paul Hindemith) und die Dissertation „Historische, kritische und finanzpolitische Untersuchungen über die Briefpostgebührensätze des Weltpostvereins und ihre Grundlagen“ gibt es bei archive.org.

Hier ein schöner Text aus der amerikanischen Zeitschrift Poetry vom Juli 1916 (Download).

CORRESPONDENCE

AUGUST STRAMM

Dear Poetry: Too little notice has been taken of the death of Captain August Stramm, the young German soldier and poet, who was killed last autumn during a cavalry charge in Russia.

Stramm gave poetry a new method, poetic drama a new field of imaginative vision. Yet he was but little known, even in Germany, when he died. As with Rupert Brooke, the glamor of his death may render tardy justice to his poetry. His gift to imaginative literature was just beginning to be perceived, and one or two French literary circles began to show signs of his influence. Eventually he might have meant to Germany what Synge did to Ireland.

He created five Storm-Books, and it is by these that I know him. He may have published other volumes. If so, it was obscurely. Sancta Susanna and Die Haidebraut are the two little books by which he will be longest remembered. English translations of these plays (a typographical mess) were published in Poet-Lore during 1914. A great many of Stramm’s poems remain uncollected in the pages of Der Sturm, and probably elsewhere.

I know of no contemporary poet who has compressed vaster distances of wind and sunlight into a line or two. He absorbed a wide moor in a single pulsation, and restored it in an inevitable rhythm transformed by his own vision of its beauty into a personal utterance. He was plunged in the mystery of open spaces. He denied nothing a secret.

I think that mountains would have been a revelation to him. He required shadows to satisfy his play of light, and he wove them into wonderful lyric patterns of terror and exultation, as if they were flaming projections of his own spirit of worship, animate in form. But he required distances, if only for contrast. Sometimes they were spiritual distances, to be found only in the uttermost reaches of the human heart, but always they were passionately linked to nature by some form of creative prayer. He was not at all interested in the surface embodiments of nature, in „pretty“ landscapes. What he felt behind all the beauty of the world was its elemental passions, and he believed these to be the projections of human passions in waves of wind and light and water, in flames of earth. He felt the terror of beauty rather than its charm, and he surrendered his heart to that. Perhaps he always saw nature in a human image.

Because his heaven was subjective, the material facts of life did not press him closely. He lived in a world he had created in the image of a personal ideal. He probably regarded his death on the battlefield as a casual incident.

I find it impossible to convey the method by which Stramm, out of the simplest words, evokes the sense of space and fatality that encompasses all his action. He can wring the most tremendous emotional values out of utter stillness. In his plays, the characters more often than not speak by their silences. The words he gives to them to utter are often merely counters, or masks if you like, to conceal the passions smouldering just beneath the surface. His own life must have been a concealment.

He was a strange man drifting through life; in the world, but not of it; never puzzled, but often unhappy; feeding the fires of his inspiration with his own passion for nature; relieving his spiritual nostalgia, in the only way in which it can be relieved, by artistic expression; a man out of his time, who walked alone, yet had friends; a man whom Germany felt that she could afford to waste. Perhaps it was because he had a Russian soul.

Edward J. O’Brien

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