Daniel Falb was born in Kassel in 1977 and has made Berlin his home since 1998, when he also began writing. He is now one of the major voices in the younger generation of German poets. He became involved in the lauter niemand writers’ forum and began publishing in magazines and anthologies, including the important 2003 anthology Lyrik von JETZT (Poetry of NOW) published by DuMont. His debut collection, die räumung dieser parks (the clearance of these parks) in 2003 was also the first publication from kookbooks, a press that has since been highly praised and has won several awards. His second collection, BANCOR, was published by kookbooks in 2009.
Falb studied physics and philosophy and, for a time, political science, taking his degree in philosophy in 2006. So he is very familiar with the laws of causality and all the talk surrounding them.
His writing displays the same blend of the experimental and analytical, while at the same time being implicitly or overtly political. The tone is relaxed, urbane and casual, with an observant, descriptive stance, and he is not averse to fabrication when the subject demands it. The poems are always set against a contemporary background.
His poems are made up of fragments of the language all around us in the modern world, for which Falb has an extremely fine ear. As the cover flap text of his second book, BANCOR, succinctly puts it, Falb redefines the political poem as a genuinely aesthetic object “that dissects public language in the public space of the poem”.
And it is clear from the poems how much he enjoys this. Collages and cut-ups of phrases, references and slogans that we know or at least think we know, from everyday life, from the news, advertising, the media, political discourse, industry, government offices and the various discourses of art, philosophy and science. Depending on the situation, these borrowings may be served up whole, or otherwise distorted or ironised. This gives these precisely arranged and highly reflective poems a latent humour. But, of course, nothing is explained.
There is no reflective ‘I’ in Falb’s poems engaging in conversation with himself and with the world; the reader is constantly being drawn in to a collective ‘we’ and being reminded, without it being explicitly stated, of a common task. Exactly what that is is left to the reader to decide. (“if structures take to the street, then what exactly is the street”) And where do we go then, we could well ask.
Falb has said that he is not concerned with aestheticising the political, but rather with working with the aesthetics of the political itself. The poetic text, according to Falb, becomes a mechanism for recording the dominant forces and formative processes in society, thus bearing testimony to the way a society produces itself and its individuals. The elements, often contradictory, that affect and influence society and individuals must be reflected in a successful political poem in its form, structure or style, since, says Falb, its aesthetic success is in its formal reflection.
Form is a subject of his poems to the extent that his subject is linguistic and social conventions. Falb writes, “it isn’t enough for the text to be interesting in what it says . . . it has to be interesting in what it does and is.”*
“So it isn’t enough for texts just to represent some situation or facts, to denounce and point out shortcomings and problems that need dealing with, or to be simply utopian. Rather, they have to ‘be something positive themselves’ in a direct way, by offering aesthetic fulfilment.”**
And his poems can do exactly that. Self-contradictory phrasings (“the re-recognition of unknown animal species”) or dry, matter-of-fact combinations of words that cause a shudder to run down the spine (“the freight station was kept at body temperature”) are typical of Falb.
Many of Falb’s lines are so subtle that reading them evokes images that are almost Kafkaesque, aesthetically fascinating, even if we do not actually wish to dwell on them any further (“I transplanted / in 1967 the first human heart – into twins”). In his early poems, officials were even thrown out of windows, with the Luftwaffe unfortunately being unable to catch them.
According to Falb, the perfect poem must be capable of registering pure abstraction in a naturalistic way, as Breughel the Elder did so successfully in his painting The Dutch Proverbs. Falb himself is constantly aiming in the production of his texts at precisely that – at gestures of directness beyond all concretion.
* Original quote from: ‘Cut’, in BELLA triste #25, 2009
** Original quote from: ‘Stichpunkte zum Politischen in der Lyrik’, in Gegenstrophe, Blätter zur Lyrik 2, Wehrhahn Verlag, 2010
die räumung dieser parks, kookbooks, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-937445-00-5
naturezas-mortas sociais – 33 poemas (poems in Portuguese and German), Sextante Editora, Lisbon 2009, ISBN 978-989-676-006-9
BANCOR, kookbooks, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-937445-39-7
2001 Winner of the Prenzlauer Berg Literature Prize (Berlin)
2005 Poetry Debut Prize of the Literary Colloquium Berlin
2005 Poet-in-Residence bursary for the Schriftstellerhaus Stuttgart
2006 Grant from the programme for younger writers (Autoren-Förderungsprogramm)
of the Foundation of Lower Saxony (Stiftung Niedersachsen)
Daniel Falb’s books at kookbooks
Recordings of Daniel Falb reading his poems on lyrikline.org