The ability of poetry – on the basis of its generic capability to bring together playfulness and awareness, an anticipated future (Ahnung) and the present – has had consequences for the history of German poetry insofar as poetry could function as a seismograph of tectonic shifts in times of societal crisis. Such was the case in the 1980s, when the East German state entered a phase of agony and there was ever more apparent disquiet in society. Multiple moments of consolidation shaped the poetry of the GDR which ought to be investigated for its epistemological potential: first, the return of political “poems for the times” (Zeitgedichte) in satirical diagnoses, second, poetic anticipation in accumulated collections of surreal visual constructs in poetry and the emphasis of grotesque effects, third, the exorbitant adventure to bring to life a space of thought and language beyond authoritarian surveillance – that is, the ambition to free the diffuse, the Proteus-esque, the marginalized, and the secretive from ossified discourse structures. A fourth tendency further resides in the historical-philosophically grounded self-determination of position and reassurance (Standortbestimmung und Vergewisserung) in poetry. Repeatedly these are bound to decided rejections of every kind of teleological progress, at times with apocalyptic scenarios. Premonition and anticipated knowledge intertwine when, for example, Volker Braun foresees the fall of the Berlin Wall in a poem written in 1988.
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