GUNTER GRASS- “Aged and with the last of my ink”

by Paul Aitchison

An old man, followed by many ghosts, stalked and adorned by a dark history, writes a poem, honest unto himself to lighten his heavy heart. Gunter Grass, a German writer, has proven to the world that a poem can shake the very foundations of our political minds and teach us to speak our own thoughts regardless of social price, for our own thoughts are all we have.

Gunter Grass: What must be said

In a world such as the one we swarm; it has comes to reason that points of view are made with actions; sanctions, guns and wars but not so often words. It is seen as sane when we walk where we are told as the planes fly over our heads. We ignore the whirling, flashing signs, the signals of a twitching momentum because we believe that this is just the way of it.

It should give us confidence, then, when words written by one man do the work of the moon and move the tides. It comforts me to see that we can still, beneath the monolith of media, project our thoughts and thereby cause the masses to think clearly about the politics defining of our time. Do you see the politicians rear up on their hind legs in the face of art as if it were the launch of a rocket? Let us savour this moment.

This isn’t a “fuck the system” statement, but the reaction of a writer inspired and encouraged once again by the power of words. I remember the first time I read a poem in public, at a little bar in my home town – The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock by T.S Eliot. I was nervous as hell, my hands were jittering and the book I held was vibrating. It’s a very long poem for a first read, and for my sake I should have chosen a shorter one, but it had captured me in such a way that it was my only option, I pushed through. A few weeks later, on returning to the same bar, a young feller came up to me to say how he enjoyed my “honest” reading of the poem, how it had become his favourite and encouraged his writing. In such moments you can hear the still reverberating echoes of the moment, the big bang, of the creation of language.

I do not whole-heartedly agree with the content and political points of Gunter Grass’s poem “What Must Be Said”, but that is beside the point of this article spark. I am, however, heartened by the reach of Grass’s personal thoughts and the way they have scared some thus empowered many. It should not be dimmed nor hidden, deemed invalid or disregarded though you have every right to disagree as Grass has to express, is this not democracy?

Behind the rims of his glasses and the billowing pipe smoke, I believe Grass feels himself at peace, that he has set his final force to rest and although now deemed unpopular, his poem embodied his life’s goal – the goal of all writers – to make a written stand in defence of his beliefs that will echo through the minds of many, and to change the world with words.