To Duration, A Poem


To Duration, A Poem

For The Last Books Press, Amsterdam, I have translated Peter Handke’s “Gedicht an die Dauer.” It will appear later this year, the first translation of the little 1986 book.

Peter Handke, Phil Baber, Michael Roloff, and Alex Caldiero all contributed to the translation.

Here the first two stanzas:

For a long time I have wanted to write about duration,
not an essay, not a play, not a story—
duration calls for a poem.
Want to question myself with a poem,
remember with a poem,
claim and reclaim with a poem
what duration is.

Again and again I have experienced duration,
in early spring at the Fontaine Sainte-Marie,
in the night wind at the Porte d’Auteuil,
in the summer sun of the Karst,
on the way home before dawn after love.

. . .

About Scott Abbott

Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University, 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I'm Director of the Program in Integrated Studies and former Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade), and translations of a book by Austrian author Peter Handke and of a catalogue of an exhibit called "The German Army and Genocide." More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as a watershed scientist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a corrections officer, as university students, and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett and our yellow dog Blue. Some publications at
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12 Responses to To Duration, A Poem

  1. flowerville says:

    really good to see. congrats.
    (i’ll buy it.)


  2. Scott Abbott says:

    Thanks. I saw your photogram on the cover of The Book of Monelle. It looks beautiful. Did the book of landscape essays come out?


  3. mikerol says:

    TO DURATION 1986 appears to have been composed after THE REPETITION, and just prior to AFTERNOON OF A WRITER… after which Handke fled [back] to Paris. TO DURATION with its mention of the Port Ateuil and the Fontaine de St. Marie, near Meudon-Clamart is already in Paris, where Handke lived from about 1971 to 1979 prior to returning to Austria, to Salzburg, among other reasos, for the sake of having daughter undergoing an Austrian education. At one time, in the mid-70s, Handke had also considered moving to NY or suburbs. Trying to write A SLOW HOMECOMING there in 1978, in the Hotel Adams, that stretch of time, what was is? less than six months, cured him
    of that fantasy. As the translator of the 1981/2 WALK ABOUT THE VILLAGES (Ariadne Press) I note how much Handke has tempered himself down
    into a tragic acceptance, how well composed this longish poem is, while yet not surrending his zest for life. “Zest for life” is a wonderful line in a great punk anthem from the 70s, expressed with marvelous derision. TO DURATION, as well, precedes by a year or
    two Handke venturing into his ESSAYS/ VERSUCHE or ASSAYINGS, PLUMBINGS as I prefer to call them, and TO DURATION has the exploratory quality and some of the focus of these plumbings, yet is, geograpically, far ranging in comparison to the focus on a single locus
    as the VERSUCHE are. Scott’s translation, which I’ve looked over for him a couple of times, has meanwhile become first rate.




    • Scott Abbott says:

      Michael, many thanks for putting the poem in context. I’m much indebted to your careful reading and brilliant suggestions for the translation. Your translation of Peter’s ‘Kaspar’ is still one of my favorite translations of all time, and I have obviously named this blog after the title of your translation of Die Angst des Torwarts.


      • mikerol says:

        Thanks for the complement about the KASPAR translation…. about which original unrevised one I have some doubts. It’s as wild and wooly as I’ve ever let a work nearly get out of hand with the kind of inspiration it provided. Especially the section that derides poetic lines I went wild enough for Peter, whose English existed but had not yet been honed by regarding the translation of his work into it, wrote “you must know it” [i..e “what you are doing.”] I don’t know, I was riffing in parts as much as translating, and I then toned it down and made it more regular for Peter Brooks when he optioned the play for a year, and as it is in the Methuen edition.. I think I did so also for Herbert Berghoff and E.G. Marshall when we worked on the first production of the play at Herbert’s HB STUDIO in… 1970? close enough.


  4. mcbett says:

    Thank you for providing finally a translation of an amazing script i am working with since a while, having read the Italian translation only.
    I will do my best to provide a copy asap.


  5. McBett says:

    Is it possible to know if and when the English translation will be available? It is passed more than one year from this article… Thanks


  6. mcbett says:

    I like to note again that I sent the amount to your link and I still got no updates .
    Hope all goes as due


    • Scott Abbott says:

      I’m not sure myself what is holding up the publication. I’m the translator only and not connected to the website from which the book is being (or will be) sold. Wish I could help and I’m looking forward to the publication.


  7. mcbett says:

    This is mostly to know if it has been printed or not yet. Thanks for your reply. I booked a copy at the end of last year…


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