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Soft, warm animals

Slata Roschal's new poetry collection Wir tauschen Ansichten und Ängste wie weiche warme Tiere aus [We exchange views and fears like soft warm animals] (Hochroth 2021) is about topics which in the face of the Ukraine crisis suddenly feel closer than ever to many people in Germany than before: death, escape, naturalisation, loneliness, powerlessness – in combination with the bored heaviness of every day life, the oppressive four walls and the crystal-clear painful observations of small details of life.

Die Waage kippt Osiris lacht ein Koffer fällt

Die Wintersonne brennt mir alle Augen aus

Hier gibt es wohlgeformte Zäune

Wir trotzen jeglicher Gefahr

(S. 29)

The scales tip Osiris laughs a suitcase falls

The winter sun burns out all my eyes

There are shapely fences here

We defy all danger

We tend to forget what we don't see, and suddenly fences come closer and so do the people who stand behind them and try to get around them. Balkan route, refugees, calls for donations, war where to whom, what suffering – where?

Hoffentlich bleiben wir kartographische Flecken

Wunderliche Gestalten an den Rändern der Welt

Dann übersieht uns der Tod

(S. 27)

Hopefully we will remain cartographic spots

Wonderful shapes at the edges of the world

Then death will overlook us

What if suddenly we can no longer overlook death and it draws us closer, pouring fear and confinement and threat into our homes? "I consider how much power the hands and fingers of the other person behind glass can bear" (p. 26), she writes about the embassy in Berlin, and these words seem to weigh more today than they did a few weeks ago. How much power can hands bear, or should they have?

Slata's poems, defined by associative leaps, can sometimes be followed, sometimes not - as in a conversation with a person who thinks differently from you. Some leaps speak to me more than others - but her sensitive observations mixed with the weight of the themes create a fascinating reading experience and make me think about what it means to reveal your innermost, to share, like soft, warm animals - to be vulnerable and raw.

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