The Vienna Poetry School Comes to Tucson: Writing Workshop/Satellite Project in GER 430

March 28th, 2018

"Anything you can say can also be said casually" (Elfriede Gerstl, "Spielräume").

In February 2018, departmental Writer-in-Residence Nika Pfeifer and PhD Candidate Lydia Heiss adapted the online class CAFÉ GERSTL, usually offered by Augusta Laar and Judith Nika Pfeifer at the Vienna Poetry School, to the German language classroom at the University of Arizona. This two-week creative writing workshop focused on Viennese coffee house poems in the style of Elfriede Gerstl's artful, rakish, and straightforward way of expressing personal mood and alienation in her poetry (Fixpoetry). Gerstl liked to go to the Kaffeehaus, so the German language and literature class GER 430: Crossing Borders/Crossing Cultures moved to one of Tucson’s popular coffee houses, Café Luce. The students were given two of Gerstl’s poems as a source of inspiration and used their imagination to write their own poems based on their immediate impressions. The coffee house poems did not have to be about the topic of the coffee house, rather, the writing prompt was to use one of the following first lines of Elfriede Gerstl’s poems for the beginning of the students' own poem or poetic text:

  • "everybody knows everything" (psychogrammatics of a local pub)
  • "comes a line flown" (a line flown)

The following poem is a remix created by taking one line from each of the poems of the ten workshop participants:

GER 430 Poets Remixed (selection and sequence by Lydia Heiss)

Es gibt keinen Platz für mich hier                                                           (Natalie Impraim)
Alles war still im Café                                                                              (Courtney Baxter)
Von Zeit gibt es keine Pause                                                                   (Eric Wise)
Sitzen und schreiben                                                                               (Thomas Noth)
Leute kommen und gehen                                                                      (Alexis Walker)
Sie hatten es schon getan                                                                       (Michael Sauers)
Menschen wie Tropfen in einem leeren Glas                                         (Lydia Heiss)
Irgendwo zwischen dem kalten Stuhl und dem beißenden Wind         (Isaac Herzberg)
Und dann war die Luft verbrannt                                                            (Nick Hansen)
In der Republic of Tea das Ding das Lücken macht                                (Nika Pfeifer)

You can read the prompt and the complete poems, and you can sign up for one of the online poetry classes here.