Archives for November 2011

Converging Traffic

This past weekend a mysterious magazine supplement, half in French and half English, falls out of my Sunday New York Times, and I see that my favorite German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger, 82, is mentoring my former poetry mentor, Princeton creative writing teacher Tracy K. Smith, 39. Is this a sign? I pull Tracy Smith’s The Body’s Question from my shelf, and find :

There was the traffic outdoors,
And the traffic of shadows indoors.

This reminds me I translated a visceral traffic poem by Enzensberger. A year and a half ago. For no good reason except that I loved its fatal images of darkness and death, dense-packed and sensational. It’s definitely traffic outdoors and traffic of shadows indoors. The poem is in Die Gedichte (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1983), p 357, titled “Autobahndreieck Feucht.” It’s the road sign: “TRAFFIC INTERSECTION WET.”  Each stanza holds a powerful scene, careening from traffic to hospital and back. First the guy is fuming, muttering tirades, swearing about everything in the car, the needed overhaul, the insurance maybe lapsed. Time sequences are mangled: the crash, the hospital, the crash again. At the end the guy lies in the ditch getting blow-torched out of the car, dirt shoveled on his face. He feels quite dead.

TRAFFIC INTERSECTION WET, by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

Tirades–when you’re all buckled up and bitter–against the leather seats, and Aluminum Motors. Curses against the overhaul, realizing about the insurance premiums, problems with spare parts, and finally the nightly traffic jam, the flashing blue light, the stretcher.

Under anesthesia, you see at an angle the instruments glint
in the backlighting. The nurse in white as she watches the television screen, the white button in her ear. Dramas flicker soundlessly over her dark face.

A crunch to the head. Only now there’s no vision
through the rearview mirror at any price. Central lockdown.
Body and car. Even the screaming hurts. Slowly, the little bubbles rise in the tube like shining pearls.

The traffic jam opens up, moving ahead. Speedily. Only the suspension is a bit too slack, the brake-pads need to be changed so they’ll grip the roadbed: Fantastic. Everything in stereo, even the drum roll. The hiss of the blue-flame oxyacetylene torch when it goes to cut open the wreck in the ditch, the thud of wet dirt that drops from the shining shovel, later on, right between your un-goggled half-open eyes.


If you love car wrecks, they can be Googled, and the results are endlessly heart-thrumming.

Two Teenagers of Verona

Two boys two girls. It’s Shakespeare’s first romantic comedy, featuring privileged Italian youths with no responsibility and marriage as their chief aim. It’s exuberant, bouncy and rough-edged. Shakespeare’s boys have never been younger, more prankishly sophomoric, more given to strutting and “braggardism,” more prone to do the dumbest things. Like Proteus trying to rape Valentine’s girlfriend, Telling her “I’ll woo you like a soldier…force ye.” Valentine rushes to the rescue, then apparently hands the girlfriend over to his rapist friend to keep their teen-age boys friendship “plain and free.”

It’s the scene the artists love to paint. But forgiveness is the keynote and those highspirited gaffes are excused. The boys propose that all four of them get married, fast and festive.

This is very early bard and he hasn’t figured all the angles. He’s trying out on his two pairs of lovers the disruptive devices he’ll use again: flighty cheating between lovers and friends, girl in boy’s clothes, villainous rival, heavy parents, outlaws in the woods. Lots of buffoonery, punning and quipping, and a live tiny shaggy dog, an alert terrier named Tiger so amiably behaved onstage it’s hard to believe he’d “make water against a gentlewoman’s farthingale.” As reported.

Frog and Peach is a zestful springy troupe bursting with good will and talent. Noteworthy are the two gentlemen themselves: Eric Dysart’s sweet-voiced bad boy Proteus the fickle, and Erick Gonzalez doing a hyper-exhilarated Valentine the faithful. The company breezes through with original songs and swordplay, their costuming a creative miscellany of Elizabethan frills and doublets, pretty dresses and jeans. They say they like to compress Shakespeare to movie-size and this one works. Earlier this year they put on Julius Caesar with guest star Rip Torn, and before that Twelfth Night. Check out their next production on West End Avenue and 86th Street, Manhattan.

Copyright 2013 Marcelle Thiebaux