1999 pani on vpa

anita pani:
laboratory for a new generation
the school of poetry in vienna

picture, caption: nick cave and his students in the "akademietheater" (theatre of academy)

it was in the year 1980. christian ide hintze, an austrian poet and performance artist, who has always been fascinated by the beat generation, comes across allen ginsberg, an american beat poet and manager of a poetry school. torn between admiration and confusion, hintze does not suspect what fateful consequences this meeting would have for his further life.

only after ten years hintze accepts an invitation to the jack kerouac school of disembodied poetics in boulder, colorado. there hintze realizes the boundlessness of possibilities offered by such a school. inspired by this "literary woodstock", as he now calls it, by this point of intersection in the american network of literature, where poets like lawrence ferlinghetti and ed sanders flock together, hintze decides to set up a poetry school of his own in his birthplace vienna. in 1991, he finally succeeds. europe finally has an independent poetry school of its own, enabling the cooperation between promising young talents and experienced austrian and international poets. almost unbelievable, when one takes into account that europe`s last poetry school, directed by sappho in mitilini on lesbos, had closed its doors 2500 years ago.

had europe left its poets in the lurch?

why did so many years have to pass before this european tradition was continued? what kept the young european poet from learning how to write from experienced artists? probably a desire for an exchange of ideas had existed all along. but why was this desire fulfilled in america first? land of dreams or producer of assembly-line literature on call? hintze talks about "a blind spot in the occidental cultural history", caused by the omnipresent image of the lonely anonymous genius, going his own way alone against the rest of the world. as one of the chosen few and therefore as an outsider cooking up something secretly in order to be discovered by chance sometime or other. a born poet does not need any education because his talent would make him famous sooner or later. these archetypal ideas determine the european concept of literature, especially in those parts where literature had always been considered something unimpeachable, something holy. just the trust in his own fate set the hopes of the european artist on success. ide hintze had the courage to turn away from these inward-looking pictures and to convince other austrian writers of the learnability and teachability of literature.

even if "the brutal term `school` is connected to the oversensitivity of `poetry` (wolfgang bauer, author of "magic afternoon"), these institutions do not have much in common. hintze has repeatedly emphasized the freedom of the artists to design the "lessons" according to their own ideas. especially the avant-garde of poets, who deliver one surprise after the other, are preferred. for instance, emil siemeister, who broadens one's horizons as a master of obscurity: wrapped up in complete darkness, "under the effects of chanted language", pens of light moved by fearless students, should leave invisible poetry on photosensitive paper. their secrets would be revealed only by the development of the photo materials.

"the schule fuer dichtung in wien is not a college in the conventional sense, it is more a laboratory for inspiration."

although the school of poetry in vienna took the american school as a model, methods and principles of course were interpreted in an european manner. the jack kerouac school of disembodied poetics, as a part of the buddhist-oriented naropa university, lays great emphasis on spirituality, meditation and performance. being responsible for the artistic teaching staff, hintze certainly invites poets from this milieu. classes of allen ginsberg and anne waldman are well-attended at all times. but hintze dissociates himself clearly from the buddhist religion and describes it as "a romantic echo on the sixties". even the american sense of community, which connects the writers in an amicable way, at first appears repulsive to hintze. but the european value of individuality had already been rejected by the viennese circle of poets, well-known for their literary teamwork.

the beat culture, the poésie sonore and the viennese circle of poets - remixed.

hintze too was swept along by this modern interpretation of literature and tried to connect modern european movements with revolutionary american ones. next to the beat culture hintze supports the poesie sonore. having grown up in the music video and cd generation, he is convinced that the end of written culture is near. especially the new media like computers or the internet seem to encourage the tendency towards illiteracy. viennese traditions, like the viennese circle of poets, and the viennese action painting had turned against the dictatorship of the word, in order to depict reality by new ways of expression. after the second world war, a time of isolation from art, the austrian poets felt absolutely disoriented. but in time modern artistic movements like surrealism and dadaism found their way to austria. above all gerhard ruehm and h. c. artmann began to go into these new directions and introduced new literary styles like concrete poetry and dialect poetry.

on the basis of these modern age movements, hintze defines his own four-dimensional concept of poetry: written, acoustic, visual, and infrastructural. above all infrastructures like the internet or a guitar alter the representation of poetry and result in a concept of expanded poetry. in the vienna`s poetry school, too, the internet gains more and more importance. the new offer of the internet classes enables young writers all over the world to participate in the literary exchange. (http:// www.sfd.at)

"the lovesong and how to write one"

poetry as a heart of the school of poetry is mostly combined with other art forms and consequently appears in a new, never-suspected versatility. nick cave is one of the most colorful personalities who had always taught at this institute. he is probably the best example of the combination of poetry and music. his class "the lovesong and how to write one" ended in the akademietheater with a successful stage performance by his students and a musical scene by the master himself. apart from anne waldman, who combines the expressive side of poetry with the vivacity of performance art, anne tardos, an advocate of literary multilinguality, also left her mark in the school of poetry in vienna. especially the offer of different teaching languages like english, russian or vietnamese turns this poetry school into an international welcome center for traveling poets. but how long will it survive? to be or not to be - that is the question here, because as an independent project of artists, the school of poetry in vienna is struggling against financial crises again and again. since hintze avoids any political interference, he has to organize the financial budget almost entirely on his own.

only a few years ago students could to attend two-week classes in september as well as in april. but the financial situation has forced hintze to limit the lessons to the september-academy. today he is not even sure if this could be obtained this year. the wish for long-time classes fails in any case, because there is no appropriate location where classes could be held. since its foundation the school of poetry has moved from place to place. on account of that it is almost homeless except for its administrative office. apparently europe has no room for young poets searching for the truth. will the european poetry school take the leap in the next millennium or must another 2500 years pass until europe would ease the road to success for her poets?

picture, caption: h.c. artmann, ide hintze and sonja orator-moor in action    
picture, caption: allen ginsberg takes a photo of h. c. artmann, september 1993

(anita pani in: the vienna reporter & http://www.univie.ac.at/very-vienna/magazin/artikel/29/29.html, vienna & internet 1999)