“Two Rooms” because a very short poem is a gutsy way to start an issue.
“Introduction” by Brian Henry because it’s really just an intro to a section of an issue about poet Tomaž Šalamun but for the first two paragraphs I thought I was reading Tomaž Šalamun writing form-less poetry about himself.
… But the surfaces have been manipulated by the artist’s hand: table surfaces have been distressed, scratched, and threaded with human hair like cryptic inscriptions from the dead.
Salcedo’s installations are said to be intimate and uncanny, both qualities in an artwork that must be intuited in person because both qualities require proximity. You must inhabit a space to feel uninhabited by the uncanny. In German, uncanny is unheimlich, or its literal translation, unhomely. To feel the uncanny is not unlike déjà vu, where you are in a new environment and are jolted by a flash of the familiar, or inversely, when you’re in your own home and you suddenly feel a terrible unease that this is not your beautiful house. Freud said that flash of the familiar is a return of our repressed past. It is the opposite of Kant’s notion of the sublime: while one elicits a rush of elevated pleasure, the uncanny provokes anxiety, a discomfort in one’s own skin. The uncanny, according to Freud, is not unlike the feeling of being buried alive. The uncanny, according to Freud, is also to feel “robbed of one’s eyes.”
But before I explain those details, I need to pause for two notes.
Note one: I never ate lunch or dinner at the restaurant at the Grand Hyatt, our conference hotel. But I did have breakfast there every morning, religiously. If our events hadn’t ended and they hadn’t shipped me back to America on schedule, I would probably still be at the buffet, running from one end to the other, flipping breads and cheeses and fruits high into the air and down into my mouth.
So, I would like to thank everyone involved with that breakfast, be they cooks, conference staff who arranged the breakfasts, or my fellow delegates who sat with me in the early hours, celebrating the experience of waking our guts.
Note two: I don’t know quite what to call them. My fellow young leaders sounds too fancy. My fellow delegates, too constitutional. Fellow attendees, too bland. So, I’ve settled on “colleagues” for the purposes of these posts. Professional but with an air of maybe going out after work for a bier and a Mercedes-sized pretzel.
After our two fun, introductory and jet-lag-battling days in Munich, we board a gloriously Internet-rich ICE train (Amtrak Internet service, you break my heart) and arrived in downtown Berlin Sunday afternoon. Our American-German Young Leaders Conference kicked off officially that night, and we met our German counterparts — as smart and friendly as the American contingent and, you know, having a hundred times the local-language skills. We also heard from our first speaker, Hella Dunger-Loper, state secretary and representative of Berlin to the federal government, essentially deputy mayor of Berlin.
We were off to the races and never slowed down.
Monday morning, we were out the door at 7:45 and on our way to the Bundestag, the parliament. But before we went, I appreciated the Grand Hyatt hotel art, especially the bear art. The bear is one of Berlin’s symbols, but you should know my love of bears crosses all borders.
As does my love of Cheerios. Thank you, sixth-floor hotel elevator bank.
We dressed up all week, not normal for me. But look at this guy! Sharp!
Oh, hi! Long time no talk. Long time since being home.
This past week, thanks to a nomination from a friend and mentor who’d done the program a few years ago, I was fortunate to be a delegate at the American-German Young Leaders Conference in Germany. The event brings together early-to-mid-career folks from both countries to learn about and discuss transatlantic issues, including communication and technology.
Before moving onto Berlin and the heart of the conference, the trip began in Munich, gathering the American delegates and giving them two days to beat their jet lag and begin to get to know the country and each other.
It was an amazing trip, one I feel very lucky to have done. Another couple posts will capture the Berlin leg of the journey, and the awesome mix of other delegates on the trip. But first, here’s Munich, or at least what I remembered to photograph. I missed lots of good moments, including all moments where one puts down the phone and has good conversation. A fair trade! So, here the moments that did make it to the lens.
We arrived Friday and had a bit of time to explore our neighborhood.
This poem by Deborah Landau has been sitting in my browser tabs for a couple weeks now, and it never gets less enjoyable. “I was always elsewhere. / How is it to have a body today, / to walk in this city, to run?”
Lori’s discovered the terrifically funny — all kinds of profane but terrifically funny — Catastrophe on Amazon, and the soundtrack has turned up more winners than one might expect. Most recently in our watching, Donovan’s Catch the Wind closes an episode. He nips the tune from Dylan’s Chimes of Freedom (and its Springsteen cover), but the song brings its own power. More on Donovan and Dylan.
Overdue public thanks to my quite-literary friend Elizabeth for picking up Susan Terris’ Memos at the AWP conference this year and sending me a copy. The book in the mail was a surprise, and then so were many of the poems in the collection. My three favorites at the moment are: “Memo to the girl with the port-wine stain across her face” (“your parents I’d like to know them”), “Memo to the deadbeat dad” (“think about the no-garden garden”) and “Memo to the young streetwalker” (“I can still see the soft spot your parchment / head cradled”).
So, I received a chance to spend three days in Germany this month discussing non-profit journalism. I’d never been to Germany before, beyond a day trip to Dachau, a flight change in Frankfurt, and the Salzburg (Austria) salt-mine tour’s brief underground jaunt across the German border (complete with sets of underground flags).
The trip, somehow just last week, turned out well…
… hours walking around the old East Berlin, now a beautifully free mix of new and old, and a day and change in Magdeburg, a friendly place a train ride from Berlin and home to a ton of history.
… a day of training and discussion both thoughtful and provocative with super-smart students at Magdeburg-Stendal University, led by their professor and our wonderful Germany-based host, Leigh Love, and several interesting leaders of German non-profit news orgs.
… and near-continuous conversation about non-profit news issues, both journalistic and business, with other members of the American contingent: Paul Steiger, founding editor of ProPublica and former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal; Chuck Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity and most recently of the Investigative Reporting Workshop; Ayan Mittra, managing editor at the Texas Tribune; Kelli Arena, our other lead host, the former D.C.-based CNN correspondent and now executive director of the Global Center for Journalism and Democracy at Sam Houston State, which paid for the trip (not NPR or its listeners); Jesse Starkey, star program manager at the center; and two of their awesome just-graduated students.
Here’s what the trip looked like, from arrival to departure. I only captured a third of the sights. In these shots, you’ll miss the water bottle exploding during my lecture. The salt-shaker of mystery. The meats and cheeses. The man with the “Support Your Local Hustler” hat. The rock band maybe called The Magazines. The back-and-forth about differences in American and German views on surveillance. The back-and-forth about funding sources. The breakfast pretzels. The Nutella. The fantastic journalism chair who’d run a community radio station in East Germany in the immediate aftermath of the dictatorship. So much so quickly. But hopefully you’ll get the feel.