Thomas Kling (1957–2005)
Challenge, Support, Launching Pad
The wind blows very cold on the Raketenstation in winter; in the first mid-year, rapidly, it was a hot breath of Texas. The shallow building with the tower, which used to be the main bunker, the command post, in which GSG 9 finally practised a bit – this building, which peeped at the world through missile-slits until recently, has been the starting-point of my work and Ute Langanky’s since December 1994. Like Insel Hombroich, the Raketenstation is to be seen as a challenge, as a support and a launching pad for joint, communal enterprises. We too have a first result to show: our first book, “gelände”(terrain), is available. The Raketenstation as a “terrain”– as a striking terrain for thought is our contemporary view of the Hombroich base in its (archi)tectonics, already changed and in a further state of constant change. Thought edifices come into being, cultivated areas develop. Halls, hangars, bunker systems; complexes that are partly under the ground: retrospective glances that we cannot let out of our sight as part of our history of an old Federal Republic. There is the old glass: bullet-proof glass that has been thoroughly shot to pieces right out to the observation tower, some time after the withdrawal of the Belgian troops. A virile test of an indigenous special unit, how can one know anything definite. In any case the lads have their own “GSG 9” stickers. Ask the painters; they had to pick the machine-gun bullets out of the walls, patiently. Hombroich, the Raketenstation is – Worpswede, they say? You’d do well not to believe that.
We are looking, superficially, at a dune. The poet can say that, because the sky, different every day, can be seen as a dune of light and old Flemish sky. We look out of the back, at a dune: a rampart built to protect against fragments. The bunker has become our night hut to the pumpkin gardens; it is studio, library, workroom, laboratory in the middle of these turnip-fields, to be precise. This raises questions, questions like: Is that a robin or a redstart? The city-dweller puts down his binoculars, picks up the bird book and recognizes the goldfinch on the face-mask. Faxes arrive, the telephone never stops ringing.
Upright wicks or angular clouds of water vapour, breaking off as the weather changes, wonderful works driven by the speedy winds. Fleet, clear streams of air, romping around at the point where two climate systems meet, on the northern edge of the Cologne Bight. Hombroich is clearly part of the lowland plain, which used to consist mainly of marshland (Lower Rhenish: Broich, pronounced with a long „o”), of moors that merge into each other, to the right and left of the river Erft, a damp landscape that glugs under your feet; a surging, bubbling area that produces putrescent gases. The place-names here show that previously they were marsh settlements, farmsteads gathered on wet, slopping land, they must have been linked by log roads. An area that could be reached only with difficulty, whose highest point, little more than an undulation in the ground, is the Raketenstation. All around are the sourish fields, containing marl, unenclosed by hedges, and so the birds come to us in their hordes – to the island, to the Raketenstation.
At this precise moment:The sky is lucid armour-plate. Showers of rain that seep through the ground; and bristly, bearded, feather-cloudy the Hombroich sky. Behind is Düsseldorf, beyond the invisible, determining Rhine.
In the summer we see a faithful Mongolfière, floating into the picture from the left in the twilight. Tourists, aeronautical – they too know how to appreciate the air currents here. As it sinks lower and lower their balloon threatens to smash into the regal birch tree, only to come to its knees immediately behind Growe and Schmidt’s hall, as a bright yellow, limp sack with the hot air escaping from it.
“Just invite your poet friends!”
Karl-Heinrich Müller, the man in the big woolly cardigan, as he came marching through the stairwell by the Thürmchenswall in Cologne (in a woolly cardigan?! We were flabbergasted …).
Müller, a collector of art and artists, armed with an enormous hunting instinct and charged to bursting-point with ideas; a good listener, a man from Düsseldorf and a great Gargantua. Müller mentioned shortly after our first meeting that he wanted more literature, younger poets, so that further work on the Hombroich project could be secured in the next generation of poets. Müller’s forcefully expressed wish was clearly the stimulus that led to starting up the Hombroich: Literatur series, which built up a regular audience astonishingly quickly.
Since the island began there have always been notable poets who have given readings here; and there are some fine-sounding names among them: Artmann from Vienna, the doyen of post-1945 avant-garde poetry and (a quarter of a century too late) 1997 winner of the Büchner prize. I will also mention the most internationally influential German dramatist since Brecht: Heiner Müller, has, one may say, been bound to the island. Christensen, Scandinavia’s leading poetess, and Pastior. Since the mid 90s Hombroich, more clearly recognizable than previously, has become a literary venue with the advent of the Raketenstation. A venue for German poetry in the first place, with participants in the readings from Austria, Switzerland, Italy, England and Russia.
Light-dune of the languages, close focus on discussions.
As guest editor of issue 5/1996 of the literary magazine Akzente, published by Hanser in Munich, I had an opportunity to edit a collection of contemporary German poetry. The nine poets featured in this anthology, which also attracted attention abroad, have in the meantime all been our guests at Hombroich: Literatur. These are the names: Aebli, Beyer, Czernin, Egger, Köhler, Schmatz, Tawada, Tsangaris, Waterhouse; Köllges, the percussionist and master Scat player, was here. We remember a reading by the wonderful Anne Duden from London. And there is none of them that would not come back with pleasure. Ask the public. We will all remember. We remember in our work – you can believe that.