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Martin Zingg

The poet Mariella Mehr

Ayse Yavas | Mariella Mehr | photograph | Switzerland | lit_00636 Rights held by: Ayse Yavas | Licensed by: Limmat Verlag | Licensed under: Rights of Use | Provided by: Limmat Verlag (Zurich/Switzerland)

In the public perception, Mariella Mehr is primarily known as the author of prose works – but besides her numerous novels, plays and in-depth reportages, she has also written an extensive and original body of poetry. To date, she has published four volumes of poetry, while other poems have featured in journals and anthologies.

In 1983 – two years after her debut novel steinzeit (Stone Age, 1980) – Mariella Mehr’s first volume of verse was published: in diesem traum schlendert ein roter findling (In this Dream a Red Boulder Strolls) (see text sample). The poems are very different in terms of both form and content; some of them reveal a tentative reaching out for something, a searching.

Mariella Mehr | [Gedicht ohne Titel 1] | poem | lit_00062 Rights held by: Mariella Mehr | Licensed by: Zytglogge Verlag | Licensed under: Rights of Use | Provided by: Zytglogge Verlag – Publishing House (Bern/Switzerland)

Some poems in the volume attach enormous importance to a single word by isolating it, even when seeking to disclose a great deal in just a few words. In contrast, other poems provide more detail and seem to take a narrative approach. They address a ‘you’ in whom they wish to trust and be able to confide, and they look for a language that can hold and support this trust.

In 1998, after years of devoting herself primarily to prose, Mariella Mehr published her second volume of poetry: Nachrichten aus dem Exil: Gedichte / Nevipe andar o exilo: Gila (News from Exile) (text sample). By this time, having been physically assaulted on several occasions, the author had migrated to Italy and was living in Tuscany, although she now lives and works in Switzerland again.

In her poems, Mariella Mehr alludes only indirectly to the experiences that forced her into exile. Besides the suffering, time and again it is the joy in discovering still unknown surroundings and the desire to embark on new experiences that shine through.

The poems possess an astounding musicality, even when hinting at painful experiences, and captivate the reader thanks to their rhythm and the powerful quality of the imagery. A distinctive feature of the volume is that the poems are presented in two languages: all the poems were translated into Romani by Rajko Djurić.

Mariella Mehr continues the bilingual presentation in her third volume, Widerwelten / Ušalinake ljumi (Contrary Worlds), published in 2001, in which Mišo Nikolić has translated fifteen of the forty-five poems into Romani. In this volume, the liveliness and euphoria which occasionally left their mark on the previous volume seem to have receded. Death features prominently, and the reader will frequently detect a melancholic tone, which also affects the language, its reliability now doubtful.

In 2003, her most recent volume Das Sternbild des Wolfes (The Constellation of the Wolf) (text sample) was published. Containing seventy-five poems, none of which has been translated, this collection continues the distinctive tonalities and the various themes from the preceding volumes.

Serenity stands side by side with sorrow, calmness rubs up against disappointment. With their uncommonly powerful imagery, the poems of Mariella Mehr bring together these diverse moods and states into a highly impressive relationship. It is this quality that makes her poems so moving.

Mariella Mehr | [Gedicht ohne Titel 4] | poem | lit_00097 Rights held by: Mariella Mehr | Licensed by: Mariella Mehr | Licensed under: CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 International | Provided by: Drava – Publishing House (Klagenfurt/Austria)