The poetry of Erik Lindner
Capturing casually perceived movements
If there would seem to be any exterior influences in Erik Lindner’s work, these could best be described as ‘accidental passers-by’ - writers and philosophers who happened to cross the poet’s path. In Tramontane one such passer-by is Walter Benjamin, whose motto ‘Man’s gaze is his edge’, seems to offer a key to Lindner’s poetry.
In his poems, the edge of man’s gaze is the town, a room, or a landscape. Lindner tries to capture the casually perceived movements in language. His poetry is pervaded by the idea that the word creates a coherence. The idea is found again in Tong en trede (Tongue and step, 2000), a collection which, as Dutch poet Jan Baeke put it, evokes a reality ‘which in its seeming triviality brings to light all sorts of wonderful, intangible facets’. This seeming triviality is primarily to be found in Lindner’s images, although ‘observations’ might be a better word: he is a permanent wanderer, a passer-by, who carefully registers the tiny movements of life in a city or the apparent stillness in a room. ‘So a passer-by explains what passing is: / a town you leave while you are staying there,’ he writes in the opening poem of the cycle ‘Temporary stop’. In Lindner’s poetry each sentence seems to contain a new registration, and the ‘rapid’ succession of the observations suggests something like the continuous movement in reality, the chaos, or, in other words, the simultaneity of all those movements.
But Lindner’s poetry does more than record reality with almost cinematic precision. It also shows what the role of language is here: words order the incoherence of the commonplace, while simultaneously creating a ‘membrane’ between the poet and the perceived. Or, as a critic aptly put it: ‘Lindner’s poetry tries to be an image of motion that cannot be captured in language’.
It altogether needn’t be a surprise that cinema and Lindner’s poetry make a good match. At the Amsterdam Filmmuseum Biënnale 2003 he recited a new poem called ‘Ostende’ and parts of ‘De sleutel’ (The key) while silent films like Images d’Ostende (1929, by Henri Storck) were being played. Both poems appear in his most recent collection, Tafel (Table, 2004), in which cinematic perception seems to have gained importance still.
Many familiar places, figures and preoccupations from previous collections return in this new one, but Lindner very carefully avoids any repetition: his focus is on refining and subtly re-defining his registrations and definitions, thus steadily composing an expanding but impressively coherent oeuvre.