I am nobody
in a shallow river
I can’t offer
sentences & smiles
reason & bridges
I do not fail
to cast a tiny shadow
in the snow.
Rudi Krausmann, from White River Hut (August 1973)
Rudi Krausmann (born 23 July 1933 in Mauerkirchen, Salzburg – died 15 March 2019 in Sydney) was an Austrian born Australian playwright and poet. He studied Economics in Vienna and worked as a journalist for the newspaper Salzburger Nachrichten. In 1958, after a sojourn in New Guinea, he migrated to Australia where he worked as a part-time German tutor, freelance-writer and as a broadcaster on community radio including 2SER-FM. From 1975 to 1989 he edited Aspect: Art and Literature magazine, and was presenter of the German Language Program on SBS Radio. Aspect was significant as one of the few magazines with high production standards (expensive paper and printing) to publish experimental writing and commentary on contemporary visual arts, while providing another forum for Australian modernists ( i.e. The School of ’68, the other flagship being New Poetry, published by Robert Adamson) and multilingual migrant writers as diverse as Walter Tonetto, Walter Billeter, Ania Walwicz, Antigone Kefala, Anna Couani, Manfred Jurgensen, and many others.
In his long publishing life he produced four plays, a long semi-fictive travel diary set in Austria (Gangan Raw Cut 1996), and numerous other collections of prose and poetry in small presses. In 1987 he published and edited the bilingual Recent German Poetry. From 1989 to 1994 he was translator for the Austrian-Australian Gangaroo (Gangan Verlag, Vienna). With Gisela Triesch he translated 80 Australian poets into German. Made In Australia was published by Gerald Ganglbauer’s Gangan Books, and his poems appear on gangway online magazine and at Australian Poetry Library.
As Pam Brown recalls in her eulogy (in her blog The Deletions) Krausmann had said that because his mother was German and his father was Austrian he had felt like a stranger in Austria. Krausmann’s literary inspirations were writers who were not afraid to offend their contemporaries, or those who could live in existential isolation, and who were known for their rebellious tendencies, like Baudelaire, Henry Miller and Simone de Beauvoir. At the same time he viewed the mythic romantic hero through sceptical shades. He had been an acquaintance of the Austrian novelist Thomas Bernhard, running into the famously grumpy writer in ‘bourgeois cafes’ in Vienna, and consequent to the novelist’s death Rudi felt life had become meaningless (Krausmann 1996 “Thomas Bernhard” Gangan Books Australia.) In a poem he wrote about the indifference of Austrians towards one of their great writers:
Thomas’s verbal bullets
caused a blackout in his country
& left its citizens
extinct on the crater of his volcano
A postmodernist to the end (but not post-meaningful) he would have argued that he remained a stranger, but a creative one, proud to stand aslant to the increasingly mainstream materialism of Australia. “Rudi considered himself to be a German poet writing in Australia and one of his themes was ‘exile’” (Pam Brown, The Deletions). His collection News: Fast Flowers, Long Journeys, Cold Funerals published in 2006 contained concrete and prose poems and pithy “bullets” of meaning. His topics were contemporary and diverse: he could write about immigration with an immigrant’s understanding, and could comfortably channel his voice through the medium of a water lily. In a somewhat Modernist European manner and love of the epitaph, he wrote of Albert Speer, Paul Bowles, Gough Whitlam, an Brett Whiteley. He wrote about Germaine Greer, and the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art. With such luminaries as Hans Magnus Enzensberger Krausmann continued the post-war cultural debate over the place of culture and the question of poetry’s role post-Auschwitz. His work ultimately proves that modern poetry and the poet were necessary indeed, and writing poetry was as important as life and death, despite poetry’s public obscurity:
After a return to Austria in the 1990s, he came back to Australia to live in Sydney. In 2018 Rudi and his partner, Flis Andreasen spent six months living in Paris. His latest book News : Fast Flowers, Long Journeys, Cold Funerals was to be launched in 2018, and contains drawings by Garry Shead.
Adam Aitken (with special thanks to Pam Brown).
Photograph: Rudi Krausmann in Sydney by Pam Brown, 1982. First published on Brown’s blog in August 2006. Visit: https://thedeletions.blogspot.com/2006/08/rudi-krausmanns-new-book.html