That’s what poems are for.

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  • , Non-Fiction

Last week, I took a few hours out to listen to German author Angela Krauβ speak about ‘life’s hidden poetry’ at Queen Mary University. After being writer in residence at the Centre for Anglo-German Cultural Relations back in 2009, Krauβ agreed to return and lead an undergraduate seminar. I’m not sure the undergrads fully realised their luck at having an author, not just a text, to interact with, but I found her words totally invigorating. She told of growing up and writing in the GDR in a way that even students who were born five years after the fall of the Wall could relate to. I was very taken by her calm yet vibrant manner. She started by talking about something Michelangelo apparently once said; that all he did as a sculptor was chip away at the stone, releasing an artwork that was already within. Her story about how she discovered her affinity for writing traced back to her early career as a painter and graphic artist. She commented that it’s very common for people to change direction in their mid to late twenties (citing, in passing, her interest in brain research, and that the brain isn’t fully formed until the age of 25), telling the listening students that there was no rush to find a ‘calling’. I doubt that’s something they hear very often throughout their education, but it should be. She also spoke about her prose and poetry: ”There are moments in life when we don’t understand ourselves, and poems are for those moments; an expression of our search for ourselves.” The students read and discussed two of her poems with her. She added that it would be depressing if we could completely understand life, a person, a text. Her words resonated with me. Sometimes people say they want to completely know another person, a lover, even a friend. But if we did, what would be left of them for themselves? What would be left of us? Her closing words: Poetry seems difficult sometimes because we’re not accustomed to living with, or accepting, mystery. But if we do, it can be the most authentic form of expression.