August Stramm Criticism - Essay

J. M. Cohen (essay date 1960)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Cohen, J. M. “The Vision of Apocalypse.” In Poetry of This Age: 1908-1958, pp. 105-06. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1960.

[In the following excerpt from his discussion of German Expressionism, Cohen describes Stramm's poetic style as concentrated and direct.]

The prime aim of Expressionism was to write powerfully of matters within the experience of the majority. It was, in fact, an attempt to reverse the esoteric drift of Symbolism. For this it had to break more violently with the German poetic tradition than Rilke or George, who had merely assimilated French influences. The Expressionists found it necessary to sacrifice the whole stiff syntax of their language. August Stramm (1874-1915), the most extreme of them, evolved a concentrated style that recalls that of the Imagists who were working on more peaceful themes at the same time in Britain and America.

Stramm's simple intention is to communicate the sights, sounds and horror of war more directly than would be possible in a reasoned and punctuated statement. He chooses his words to act as missiles that will explode in the reader's mind, with the impact of a shell. In describing a trench-attack he attempts with raw immediacy to convey not a picture or a recollection but the actual sensations of the moment itself:

Aus allen Winkeln gellen Fürchte Wollen
Das Leben
Den keuschen Tod
Die Himmel fetzen
Blinde schlächtert wildum das Entsetzen.

[From all corners fears yell will shriek whips life before it pure death the heavens shred blindly terror slaughters wildly on all sides.]

Each word is used in isolation and, lacking punctuation, most lines can be read in more than one way. Stramm uses nouns as verbs, and sometimes verbs as nouns. The alliteration is crude, the line-breaks arbitrary. The attempt to convey excitement succeeds, but there is no statement.

Christoph Hering (essay date January 1961)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Hering, Christoph. “The Genesis of an Abstract Poem: A Note on August Stramm.” Modern Language Notes 76, no. 1 (January 1961): 43-8.

[In the following essay, Hering provides an analysis of Stramm's poem, “Werben,” that focuses on the techniques Stramm used to write abstract poetry.]

The reader of modern German poetry will all too often encounter impersonal and, as it seems, unrelated statements that are difficult to interpret. Most present day forms of poetic diction had already been used in Expressionism; August Stramm's poem “Werben,” for example, were it not for its title, would hardly suggest that it deals with Man's vain struggle in pleading...

(The entire section is 1846 words.)

C. R. B. Perkins (essay date autumn 1976)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Perkins, C. R. B. “August Stramm: His Attempts to Revitalise the Language of Poetry.” New German Studies 4, no. 3 (autumn 1976): 141-55.

[In the following essay, Perkins discusses Stramm's experimental manipulation of poetic language through linguistic techniques such as conversion and syntactical deformation.]

August Stramm (1874-1915), a member of the Expressionist circle contributing to Herwarth Walden's journal Der Sturm, blossomed as an experimental poet only in the last two years of his life. His experiments in diction, metre and syntax were far in advance of any of his poetic contemporaries. Stramm had indeed been writing poetry, dramas and...

(The entire section is 4048 words.)

Malcolm Jones (essay date November 1977)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Jones, Malcolm. “The Cult of August Stramm in Der Sturm.Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies 12, no. 4 (November 1977): 257-69.

[In the following essay, Jones examines Stramm's influence on the development of the German literary journal, Der Sturm.]

Du großer Künstler und liebster Freund.
Du leuchtest ewig.

Kunst lebt den Künstler, der ihr stirbt. Sie trägt den Tragenden durch das Getragene. Darum soll man das Wunder feiern.1

Exceptional even for his pronouncements in Der Sturm, such tones of reverence and fervour from Herwarth Walden celebrate his friend and...

(The entire section is 5490 words.)

Patrick Bridgwater (essay date 1979)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Bridgwater, Patrick. “The Sources of Stramm's Originality.” In August Stramm: Kritische Essays und unveröffentlichtes Quellenmaterial aus dem Nachlaßdes Dichters, J. D. Adler and J. J. White, pp. 31-46. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag, 1979.

[In the following essay, Bridgwater traces various literary and philosophical influences on the themes, structure, and style of Stramm's poetry.]

There are a few essential factors in Stramm's life which no account of the genesis of his poetry can afford to ignore. They include: his emotional personality and interest in painting and music; the nature of his main themes and experiences (love and war); his reading of Hans...

(The entire section is 7450 words.)

Karin von Abrams (essay date October 1982)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Abrams, Karin von. “The ‘Du’ of August Stramm's Liebesgedichte.Forum for Modern Language Studies 18, no. 4 (October 1982): 299-312.

[In the following essay, Abrams offers a critical overview of Stramm's 1915 Du, focusing on alternatives to the standard interpretation of the volume as a collection of love poems.]

Ever since its first appearance in 1915, August Stramm's Du has been considered almost exclusively as a collection of love poems. This view is of course warranted not only by the collection's subtitle, “Liebesgedichte”, but also by evidence which the individual poems themselves supply. The clearly indicated thematic...

(The entire section is 5400 words.)

Richard Sheppard (essay date December 1985)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Sheppard, Richard. “The Poetry of August Stramm: A Suitable Case for Deconstruction.” Journal of European Studies 15, no. 60 (December 1985): 261-94.

[In the following essay, Sheppard offers a deconstructivist analysis of the works of Stramm.]

Prone though it is to mystify its logical procedures and to justify that mystification by implicitly suggesting that anything less than unintelligibility is a surreptitious concession to Western logocentrism (cf. ref. 36 below), the contemporary cult of Deconstruction is teaching the literary-critic-in-the-street four very practical lessons: to become aware of and hence relativize the assumptions and rhetoric...

(The entire section is 14769 words.)

Patrick Bridgwater (essay date 1985)

(Poetry Criticism)

SOURCE: Bridgwater, Patrick. “August Stramm.” In The German Poets of the First World War, pp. 38-61. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985.

[In the following essay, Bridgwater offers a biographical and critical assessment of Stramm's war poems.]

August Stramm, a near-sighted dreamer with a sense of duty inherited from his soldier-father (decorated for bravery in the Franco-Prussian war), was born at Münster, Westphalia, in 1874. After a middling performance at school (he subsequently took a degree by part-time study), he entered the German post-office administration in 1893; hard work soon won him promotion. He completed his year's compulsory military service in...

(The entire section is 9403 words.)