Mikael Vogel

Germany

was born in Bad Säckingen, Germany, in 1975. After living in Seattle, Paris, Tübingen, and Freiburg (among other places), he has been based primarily in Berlin since 2003. He has published five books of poetry: Dodos auf der Flucht. Requiem für ein verlorenes Bestiarium(Verlagshaus Berlin, 2018), Morphine(Verlagshaus Berlin, 2014), Massenhaft Tiere(Verlagshaus Berlin, 2011), O Wildnis Dunkelheit! – Nachtgedichte(Offizin S. Meran, 2009), andKassandra im Fenster(with Friederike Mayröcker and Bettina Galvagni, Offizin S. Meran, 2008). In 2016, his novella, Ebola Global', was released by the renowned underground publisher SuKulTuR whose booklets are distributed in vending machines.

 

In 2002, he was awarded a Hermann Lenz Writing Grant. In 2015, he traveled to Hōkkaido, Japan with a Yakiuta Travel Grant; in addition to his research there for Dodos auf der Flucht, work from his residence in Hōkkaido will appear in 2020 in a band of poetry on Japan. He was awarded the Medienpreis RAI Südtirol from Lyrikpreis Meran in 2016. In 2017, he was appointed Writer-in-Residence at Kommandantenhaus Dilsberg by the Kulturstiftung Rhein-Neckar-Kreis e.V. Mikael Vogel is a current recipient of the 2019 Literaturstipendium from the German state of Baden-Württemberg.

 

His poem “An den Schluckspecht” [To the Boozehound] inspired a craft beer with the name “Schluckspecht Pils” [Boozehound Pilsner] from the Berlin-based microbrewery Bierfabrik—his poem is printed on the label. Friederike Mayröcker included two poems by Mikael Vogel in the list of her 25 favorite poems of all time.


On Humans Beings. And No Other Swines!

March 1, 2018

Hamburg

 

Mikael Vogel’s Dodos auf der Flucht[Dodos on the Run]has finally hit bookshelves. After teasers in the form of several of his individual poems (Fixpoetry, “Text of the Day” on February 20, 2018November 30, 2017November 30, 2016, and September 7, 2016; “Ästhetiken des Bewahrens” [Conservation Aesthetics] in Triëdere 12, January 2015; or first readings during events like the Lyrikbuchhandlung at the 2017 Frankfurter Buchmesse),it can now be read and appreciated in full, together with illustrations from Ohio-based artist Brian R. Williams. 

The results of his meticulous work on the topic of mass extinction is, in my eyes, nothing less than an epoch-defining work, the ooetryis [whoops, honestly: that was a typo, but some errors prove themselves to be profoundly correct. “'Ō'ōsiert euch!” Vogel’s call to—in keeping with the tradition of his publishing house—maintain the spelling conventions of 'Ōlelo Hawai'i, the oral Hawaiian language. Hold your breath before I toss this bird into the sky and hope his wings are strong enough to evade the critics still waiting with loaded rifles to live out their big game hunter fantasies]… Let me repeat myself: an epochal work, skillfully combining poetry, biology, and natural history with political statements on climate protection. This knowledge is the product of obsession (another 'Ō'ō), the result of long years of research, all but uncontainable in its scope, and constantly necessitating update. Climate change? Climate change deniers: John Howard, Australian Prime Minister (1995-2007): obsolete; Donald Trump, U.S. President (2017-the demise of Homo sapiens sapiens?): desolate. White men make money first: “We are just money grabbers.

Vogel writes about humanity (and in his “Sonograms from a Wave of Extinctions” about the Anthropocene, the era which places human power in the absolute midpoint):

Rather than focus on the real scope of the disaster, the destroyer stages himself in his destroyer role, imposing—in his delusions of grandeur—his own name onto the geochronological epoch of his dictatorship of extinction: the narzissismof an entire species[…] The act of annihilation remains absent from the concept of the Anthropocene. Its victims remain excluded. One abstains from even implicit empathy for other lives. Would it not have been more appropriate to create a monument for those targeted?

Vogel calls the protagonists of extermination—proud stupid hunters (cowardly swine) or the products of multinational corporations—by name, as they’ve been handed down in the written record. In doing so, he rightly identifies the ways in which the extermination of the animal world went hand-in-hand with the extermination of indigenous peoples, the depletion of nature, and its mineral resources. The examples are plentiful: Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania); Jón Brandsson and Sigurður Ísleifsson strangling the last Great Auk and Ketill Ketilson crushing its final egg on June 3, 1844; the death of the dusky seaside sparrows and the Bengal tigers from DDT (J.R. Geigy Ltd.) and Diclofenac (Ciba-Geigy Ltd.). Just look at Arundhati Roy’s exposition from The Ministry of Utmost Happinessfor comparison:

The vultures died of diclofenac poisoning. Diclofenac, cow aspirin, given to cattle as a muscle relaxant, to ease pain and increase the production of milk, works—worked—like nerve gas on white-backed vultures. Each chemically relaxed milk-producing cow or buffalo that died became poisoned vulture bait. As cattle turned into better dairy machines, as the city ate more ice cream, butterscotch-crunch, nutty-buddy and chocolate-chip, as it drank more mango milkshake, vultures’ necks began to droop as though they were tired and simply couldn’t stay awake.

Vogel can verify:

Museums with their stuffed animals behind glass eyes are smothering mausoleums. They are as outdated and boring as they are grounded in injustice, a realization one makes at the latest among the artificial dioramas of familiar, local animals. What sense is there today in these immobile beasts?

A visit to the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt—owner of a complete and mounted thylacine skeleton, the so-called Tasmanian wolf (one of only 28 exemplars worldwide), and a taxidermied dermoplastic thylacine (one of approximately 100 worldwide)—allows one to experience the urgency of Vogel’s question in a tangible manner. In fact, the question has already been answered. The Darmstadt thylacine can be used as a “Fun-&-Event-Backdrop” for Facebook photos [I was in DADArmstadt: dada dodo]. The commercial use of these images [it’s questionable whether this book review might constitute commercial use] requires a permit, and presumably also a cash payment. [Disguised as commentary, these parenthetical insertionsbullet holes allow no room for discussion, no pause for further development, for the hatching of mature thoughts. It is an existential crisis. SOS – Save our site. For we humans can also go the way of the animals. Capitalism devours and devours and shits and shits.] So the circulatory system of exploitation remains unbroken.

In the process of its ascension, humanity has increasingly come to monopolize extinction, as it has monopolized the planet. A kind of success story.

Vogel’s monument in words. A must-read!

(*P.S. Julia Leigh also writes on the thylacine inThe Hunter. Thank you, Debbie Lim, for the reference.*)

 

By Eric Giebel