Bertolt Brecht’s California Poetry

Ehrhard Bahr

in Weimar on the Pacific

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780520251281
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520933804 | DOI:
Bertolt Brecht’s California Poetry

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It was Bertolt Brecht who gave Los Angeles a bad name in German literature. Even critics who are not familiar with the original German verse love to cite Brecht's scathing poem comparing Los Angeles to hell. In the poem's first stanza, Brecht refers to Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem entitled “Hell,” which was part of a parody, “Peter Bell the Third,” ridiculing a cycle of poems by William Wordsworth. Brecht continues his diatribe against the movie industry in his “Hollywood Elegies,” a cycle of six poems that he wrote for Hanns Eisler's Hollywood Songbook. In order to understand Brecht's California poetry as modernist poetry, one has to look at his household poems and at his garden poetry written in imitation of classical Latin poetry that reflects on nature and politics. This chapter explores Brecht's lyric poetry as a paradigm of dialectics in exile modernism. Brecht had to reinvent Los Angeles as a city of exiles in order to be productive as a poet.

Keywords: Bertolt Brecht; Los Angeles; poems; Percy Bysshe Shelley; William Wordsworth; movie industry; Hanns Eisler; lyric poetry; exile modernism; exiles

Chapter.  9552 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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