études by Friederike Mayröcker, translated by Donna Stonecipher. An appreciation.





To write, I begin at the ending, re-reading the book I've attempted to review. Attempted to write about in a review-like manner. But the writing of reviews proposes separation I am not prepared to make.

I begin re-reading the book I want. I begin re-reading the book I want to have myself written, wish some day to be able to write, by which I mean on some fundamental level that I wish to be. Which is not possible because I am I. I am not Friederike Mayröcker, am not her études, translated by Donna Stonecipher. 195 pages of lyric prose, conduit for a single instrument’s maximal unfurling along with the turntable’s needle scratched across the record’s surface. Irreparable rending of time's passage.

I begin at the ending, with études’ last two-paged rush of lyric prose untitled, as all of the passages are untitled, and dated at its end, as all of the passages are dated at their end. To read-be inside études is to breathe and be breathless. Is to cacophony, melody, silence. Études practices nothing less than life’s intimacy with death. The &c. that follows adieu.

To practice, I begin with the last paragraph of the last étude, dated 16.12.12. No, “paragraph” employs the wrong vocabulary. If not paragraph then movement? Phrase? A chain of soft leaps backwards made by Martha Graham dancers in Dark Meadow Suite. To look not from the front of the eyes, but from the back of the skull. If not paragraph with its claims to linearity and containment then perhaps each run of language could be called an unfurling? I unfurl the last frond, I retype the last movement, pulling the chain of leaps, soft, backwards through my eyes, brain, down the back of my throat, through my sternum, shoulders, arms, wrists, fingers, all ten tap-tap-taping out—

soft and dismayed your dear face as though from mock moons dewing clematis and periwinkle 1 branchlet stuck out from the image's edge, and we sat together under the apple trees in the valley, “ardently little caplet adieu,” &c.

Adieu. &c. And how to adieu, how, Fredericke Mayröcker, do I practice adieu? How do I adieu? How do I the &c. that follows? Étude, soft and dismayed, travelling backwards in light leaps, yes, with the absolute clarity, dearness, belovedness, of your dear face.

Upon the phrase your dear face I import the faces of Fredericke Mayröcker’s beloveds, the faces of others, now departed, who I cannot possibly know. Your dear face, your phrase, holds your beloveds, now departed, through translation into English by Donna who, now, upon typing her name—the middle finger of my left hand striking D as the pinky holds down the shift; the ring finger of the right hand o; the pointer finger of the right hand extending down to tap n and again n; the pinky of the left striking a— Donna appears before me. Or a mental image of Donna Stonecipher, two-decades dear friend, appears to me as the face in the phrase and I am saying to myself soft and dismayed your dear face as though from mock moons drawing dew.

O Donna-Madonna, dear conduit, dear irreplaceable, you take the difficulty of mock—moan, awe, caught—and round it, dew it, softening recollection into image. This is so like you, dear DS. So like you to understand what mocks and hurts in its vision of the dear ones, lost ones, mourned ones, who will never again be beside the living again. It is so like you and Friederike Mayröcker to take death’s mock moons and transform them into moons dewing

In death the dear face dewing clematis and periwinkle 1 branchlet stuck out from the image's edge—

—We sat together on a summer-dry hill just opposite the Berlin Tegel Airport, and I drew flowers with a stick in the dirt. We sat together, sit together, still. Études translated by Donna Stonecipher sits-me, sits-us together ardently with Friederike Mayröcker who I will never read in German, who at ninety-six years of age must be, inevitably, slipping as so many are slipping and slipping, soon slipping out of the frame while leaving us, leading us with the most precious practice of the &c. that follows adieu.






Karla Kelsey is the author of five books, most recently Blood Feather (Tupelo Press). With Aaron McCollough she co-edits SplitLevel Texts.