The Art of Writing a Life: Heimatsuche and Bohemianism in the Poetry of Lasker-Schüler

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Kulms, Marie, Emily
Else Lasker-Schüler , Poetry , German , Heimatsuche , Bohemianism , Metapoetic
This study explores how the poetry of Else Lasker-Schüler (1869-1945) creates a personal space—a Heimat—through the poetic process. Through close readings of a selection of the poet’s works, I demonstrate the paradoxical relationship between physical structures and emotional or psychic freedom. I show how this association between form and fluidity reflects the poetic genre itself, while also drawing parallels to Lasker-Schüler’s biography and her relationships with the Berliner Bohème. Lasker-Schüler’s work has been viewed through many different lenses: Expressionism, Judaism, and feminism. Such interpretations can be problematic, as they impose limitations on the poet’s work and are thereby contradictory to the fluid qualities conveyed in her poems. Through close analysis of the formal and aesthetic aspects of Lasker-Schüler’s poetry, I illuminate this often neglected, but most important aspect of the fluctuating, creative space. Lasker-Schüler’s life circumstances forced her to live an unsettled life, but poetry seems to have functioned as a means of accessing the internal Heimat or Seelenlandschaft. The lyrical “I” of Lasker-Schüler’s poetry wanders throughout the poet’s collective works, her voice undergoing metamorphoses, leaving the reader to question this elusive poetic identity. The bohemians, who offered Lasker-Schüler an inspiring creative community, mirror this internal poetic world externally, as they embraced art and performance to create their chameleon-like identities. In turn, the bohemian mentality is reflected in the poet’s work; this constant movement and state of flux creates a poetic space, the very transience of which is what allows it to become a personal utopia, a Heimat, for the homeless soul.
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