The excellent book review by Susanne Wiesinger in Current Concerns No. 9 from 15 May 2020, made me think about the poetess Hilde Domin and motivated me to read her biography. After reading it, I acquired the collected poems and the “Gesammelte autobiographische Schriften. Fast ein Lebenslauf” (“Collected auto-biographical writings. Almost a Curriculum Vitae”) (Fischer paperback 1998).
What is discussed in this biography authored by Ilka Scheidgen, becomes even clearer in Hilde Domin’s own writings: the ability and the will to enter into a direct relationship with the other person, without fear of contradiction, knowing that things should be clarified between people. The following is an example that particularly impressed me: When Hilde Domin travelled to Italy with her husband in the 1930s to escape the Nazis, she met a German couple in Florence; they were both travelling as tourists. She had been friends with this couple since she was a student in Heidelberg. Not only does the couple not greet them, they demonstratively look away. This was a painful experience for Hilde Domin and her husband. When they returned to Germany from their Latin American exile in the early fifties, the same couple stood at the airport and greeted them warmly.
Hilde Domin was aware that she couldn’t continue a relationship with this couple without clarification of the incident in Florence. And she asked what happened at that time. “We were afraid,” she was told. This was enough for her to continue a lifelong friendship.
Her humorous directness with school children and prisoners and with her reading audiences, helped her and her audience to overcome complicated situations. She vividly described how she always chose a face in the audience and spoke to this person in a very special way. This often lead to friendships.
Thanks are due to Susanne Wiesinger for drawing the attention of the readers of Current Concerns to this life-affirming and courageous poetess who stood up for peace.
Rita Müller-Hill, Cologne
(Translation Current Concerns)
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