PATHOS Penpal Project
Deutsch-Amerikanischer Briefaustausch zwischen Antigone Akgün (DE) und John L. Peacock (USA)
Im Rahmen der Reihe «King Kong und die weissen Frauen»
Thank you for your last letter. It’s strange to think of how much has happened since my first letter to you this year, let alone since your response! Yes, we have a new President. Yes, we have a newly-revived fandom for poetry, and a new obsession in the wonderfully talented Amanda Gorman, which I share and am so thrilled for her exposure. I earned my MFA in creative writing from a poet-heavy program, and I delved into the New York poetry scene headfirst for several years before slipping back into the theatre flow, and I’m marveling at how one poem, one wonderful poet at the right time and place, can change so many of the masses minds from “Poetry? What the hell is that for?” to “Poetry can open the soul” and “I want to share MY poetry, too!” The joke in the American writing world for so long has been that if you want to get published, write a book, and if you want to get laughed out of the room, write a book of poetry. I hope the obsession lasts, and poetry sees a resurgence in the 21st century; we know it could use it!
My new government? Wow. It’s weird to say it, to know it’s actually true. That orange bastard has even us thinking he might pull it off and stay indefinitely. But the changing of the tide, as has happened every four years since our first President, actually occurred, we ebbed and he flowed down to Florida to sulk as a private citizen, not even allowed his ex-Prez daily briefs because President Biden worries that his erratic behavior will leak confidential information simply to get some media attention once again. And the second impeachment happened, solidifying his legacy of being recognized as the most destructive leader in our nation’s history.
So, enough about that florescent chemical snack; our new government is off to a good start, in my opinion. Vice President Kamala Harris is historic, yes, and again history will look back and ask WHY it took us this long, but she’s also extremely intelligent and equipped to lead in a straightforward way. I look at Angela Merkel, and from a distance I see her as a super great leader. I am sure you, inside Germany, could tell a more accurate account of her time as Chancellor, fifteen years plus now, but I want you to know that there were many, MANY back here in the United States who would look at pictures of her and blurt out, “Oh, THERE is the Leader of the Free World,” jabbing into our own stupid arrogance of calling our Presidents that title since the mid-20th century, and recognizing how little that title means when in the hands of incompetence. We saw competence in Chancellor Merkel, a competent political leader, adept in leadership as she is in politics, and we felt nostalgia for that kind of leadership.
So, we finally elected a woman to a federal position, and this symbolic function of Vice President Harris seems to be the answer to the symbolic function of our last president, a symbol of bigotry, xenophobia, “patriotic” arrogance, and closed-mindedness. And, just as he wreaked havoc to our country and beyond while people focused on his symbolic function, I see both President Biden and V.P. Harris working to repair, unite, and find understanding in the wake of his havoc.
You wrote about German theaters hiring artists for work that may never see the light of day. I cannot relate to this, and this is part of the systemic differences between theatre of the United States and Germany: the lack of any substantial subsidies for artists and arts organizations. We simply don’t have many theater houses doing this. Broadway theaters are simply venues for hire, so they have done nothing since the lockdown. The regional companies are the ones producing anything these days, almost exclusively online (either recorded or live), and usually through Zoom. There is no thought of hiring artists during this time when potentially no revenue will come from it, when potentially the art created will never see the light of day, because theatre does not receive enough funding outside of ticket sales to allow for this. They are using the grant money they receive to merely stay afloat, to pay their administrators, and to pray they’ll make it until live theatre can give them revenue once again. I have an American friend who’s been singing professionally for an opera house outside of Düsseldorf for the past five years; he’s spoken of this frustration of having the operas moved back several times before finally being cancelled altogether, but he’s also happy to be rehearsing and to have a job doing what he loves, all the same. I hope this backlog of art does get to come to the light, and I see the creation of this backlog during the lockdown as a way to keep art in Germany from becoming stagnant, a fear I have for American art.
What sci fi movie did you end up watching? My company just read a new play called SCI FI this past week, so I highly appreciate the reference to the continuum. To bring it back to poetry, that reference also made me think of Allen Ginsberg’s Space-Time poetics. And of the book BE HERE NOW. So, here I am, now, early February of 2021, and I’m excited for what comes next. And for your next letter; until then, take care!
Jon L Peacock
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