April 27th, 2010

Christian Loidl: 1957 - 2001

Requiem for Christian Loidl
William Levy

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In a way, the Austrian poet Christian Loidl’s demise was an Icarus action, radical as was his life. Chris’ partner wrote me – “It seems that he had taken mushrooms and jumped out the window, out a of a closed window, so he had to break the glass first, and then he fell or jumped and broke his neck. That’s all.”


People who are afraid of heights are not afraid of accidentally falling. They are terrified of their inexorable urge to jump, to fly, an abyss-merge-craving-rapture as a triumphant exit strategy to Zion, the highest region. Chris called himself an “airpoet,” he lept at life — in the faith that he could grab it. He believed: Let’s be realistic and demand the impossible; and, The only thing worth contemplating is that which cannot be contemplated.


A lot of people loved Christian Loidl. “Imagination is not a State,” said the visionary British poet/painter William Blake, “it is Human Existence itself.” And Chris owned this airy realm of dreams — let it here and now be said — in his daily life with concentration and generosity, with a guileless chivalry. He was one of poetry’s natural troubadours, an avant-savant, wandering minstrel, hierophant of epiphanies.


We first met in Vienna, near the grand Ferris wheel of the Prater — made famous by The Third Man film. I had just flown in from Lithuania. I had been there to do readings at the Autumn Festival in Druskininkai, an enchanting once fashionable, Middle-Earth-type spa town surrounded by a mushroomed primeval forest. Then to downtown Vilnius for the very official book launching — at the baronial Writers’ Union building — for my collected poems translated into Lithuanian, Kas pavoge vistyti? (Who Stole the Chicken?). It seemed like no coincidence that Chris likewise knew this haunting Baltic country. We fell immediately into an extreme discussion. About the spirit of that place, its hidden misteries, its careless beauty, its spiky vibrato light and weary eerie unforced pagan mood, the click click clicking of an abacus, the paintings and the music of M.-K. Ciurlionis, sonatas of the stars, samovars — so began our fruitful communion that lasted the next four years until his passing on.


When I got back to Amsterdam, we exchanged our works — printed matter and sounds. Our brains felt well fed and apoetized by each other’s gems. A couple of months later, a German publisher wanted to do my book The Night Before Charisma: The Rise & Fall of Otto Muehl, an essay about that imprisoned artist, philosopher and sex communard. I asked Chris to do the translation. During the winter/spring of 1998, we were in constant, intense contact over this by letter and seriously long Sunday telephone calls. Unser Freund Otto Muhl: Eine Studie zum Kulturschock, appeared that summer and Chris flattered me with: “Should you ever consider a similar job, it’s fine with me.”

Over the next few years, we saw each other only one other time. When Chris came to Amsterdam to perform well-tempered Mongolian overtone chanting at a presentation for a book of Balkan tales by a Dutch author. Then the next day Chris came to my house, early, for dinner. We spoke out out hearts and minds, and without regret. Chris mentioned, I remember hazily, a poetry festival he had been to in Medellin, Columbia: “Where lots of gente have fun, share visions, bask in powerful green mountain winds and where erotic friendliness and sensitivity charge everyday dealings.” All of a sudden, it was two o’clock in the morning. The conversation was so good, so buoyant, that after noshing on the assorted seafood hors-d’oeuvres, lamb meatballs in sweet and sour tomato sauce, dark bread and salads, I completely forgot to serve the steamed ginger chicken with shiitake mushrooms. It wasn’t missed, though, since that evening invisible language had been nourishment enough.

Although we didn’t see each other again, I continued featuring Chris’ latest verse and tunes on my weekly radio program, the Dr. Doo-Wop Show. He continued to send me his own stuff, as well as diverse rare and remarkable cassettes. One was a recording of the last hours of Timothy Leary — with his real-time death moment. Others included Helmut Qualtinger’s wonderfully preposterous songs, and the soundtrack to Kenneth Anger’s film Lucifer Rising, recorded in jail by Manson Family associate Bobby Beausoleil, a convicted murderer. Also, new great maestros — from Germany, Austria and Switzerland — deluged me with their latest audio art, with a covering note, that said: “I got your address from Christian Loidl” or “My friend Christian Loidl told me to send.” Few poets promote someone else’s accomplishments. Chris did! And, in solidarity with him, in every case I found a place to give them airtime, in airplay to transmit something of these embers of the heart on the airwaves. Ubertragung. Chris was always trying to get artists to be part of a conspiracy, to conspire, con spirare, breathe together.

But Chris was not a quietist: he worried about politics. After the chauvinistic Jorg Haider-led Freedom party (FPO) entered government, he wrote me: “Now those twerps have unearthed patriotism as a weapon against dissent. People like us are traitors of the Fatherland.” And in another card he wrote: “Yes, Austria’s in deep shit.” Yet went on with his infectious optimism, always seeing the sunny side, “On the other hand, there’s an awakening.” Chris recognized that: “Resistance brings people together; there are smiles in the streets in the shadow of the frowns. There are spine-amputation clinics now, particularly for people in culture politics. Underground makes sense once again.”

Here is something from one of Chris’ letters to me I want to share. Written in 2000, at the very beginning of the fresh millennium, it seems to be an answer. An answer, I think, to my family’s annual New Year’s report. Although in prose, I have made it into a short poem that I hope finds its way into Chris’ oeuvre. In his own words…

Get Your Millennium Sparks

Spent New Year by myself
this time,
in celestial intoxication.

Oracle with molten lead:
an eagle-wing
with lion perching on it.
Or: Eyebrow of an old warrior king.
Or: Eagle starting from rock into abyss,
which the tip of his beak
has fathomed.

A blissful transition.

Ach, so! Nevertheless, here’s another transition, a further abrupt change, maybe an awakening. The poem of mine Chris enjoyed most is Crippled Warlords. First published one score and five years ago, it remains ether resonant, an archaic ritual applying a mental radio vector. I would like to read it for you now.

I can still hear Chris echo in my ears, his high-spirited glottal street shouts. The sharp, quick sound of loud hiccups, hiccups personally transferred to him by American Magus Harry Smith:
Woe-oh! Woe-oh! Woe-oh!

I know Christian Loidl will hear this, my…

Crippled Warlords

We are all crippled warlords
Doing our best to force the end
We are all early Christian, Sabbatian Terrorists
Doing our best to force the end
We are all enchanting insurrectionists
Giving you a heavenly enema
Doing our best to force the end.

Narses, an intriguing eunuch bureaucrat
in Constantinople
at the court of Justinian
   sixth-century AD
Being a eunuch is a job you have to be cut out for
But Narses had balls
   At the age of sixty
He undertook to lead an army
Annihilated the Vandals in Africa
The dog-headed Ostrogoths in Italy
   At the battle of Vesuvius
And the Mediterranean was again a Roman lake.
And what was the outcome?
   From the Euphrates to the Pillar of Hercules
War, fiscal oppression and religious persecution
Accelerated the decay of life
Prepared — pale, emaciated, miserable –
For the event of Muslim conquers.

We are all crippled warlords
Doing our best to force the end
We are all enemies of the stars
Confronting the darkness
as a spiritual act
Demonstrating that the outward action
Harmonizes invisibly with

The structure of the cosmos
We are all creative nihilists
Doing our best to force the end.

Timur, or Tammerlaine, or Timur the Lame
Became crippled as a result of an accident
During a robbery in his youth
   Say Western observers
More likely the result of a ritual assault
A form of sacred lameness
   The eight sign of royalty;
Tammerlaine who believed all human settlement
to be against God’s will
Like the yellow serpent
inhaled wheat fields and exhaled dust bowls
passing over the face of Asia like a fire storm
leaving behind him desolation and wilderness
where had once been fertile plains;
Tammerlaine, a paradoxical balance
   Of heroic virtues and savagery
   Of cruelty and love of art and philosophy
Slaughtered a million people in Baghdad
And stacked their heads in a gigantic pyramid
   for his own memorial
Yet spared the libraries, the mosques, the hospitals
Spared the scholars who he sent to his capital
Tammerlaine taught that warfare is part of Nature’s purpose
That strife should be the law of our souls.

We are all crippled warlords
Doing our best to force the end
We are the scourge of God, the spawn of the devil
and the punishment to the world
Doing our best to fit those terms
Blood, Frog, Vermin, Infectious diseases
Noxious beasts, Boils, Hail
Locusts, Darkness, the Killing of the First Born
We are all crippled warlords
Doing our best to force the end.

Rising out of Bohemia like a yeast ghost virus
With the image of the chalice on his flag
Calling for a universal dispensation
   Communion in both kinds to rich and poor;
John Zizka, a blind general of the Hussite reformation
   A fifteenth-centure chiliast fundamentalism
Told his followers to make every effort to see
That anyone who could swing
A club or hurl a stone is up in arms
At every hour of the day
Using mobile nomadic circles of wagons as fortresses
He defeated warriors from all over Europe
Sightlessly directed his armies in glorious raids
Against all that was
   Holy, Roman, Imperial
In certain parts of Austria even now
Five centuries later cows are kept indoors.
Seeking the truth unto death
Zizka’s last will and testament commanded:
   ”my body be flayed, the flesh
   thrown to the birds and beasts
And a drum made from my skin”
And with this drum beating a sound
His Orphans should continue the way
   Prophesying their enemies would turn
To flight
As soon as they heard
the voice of his skin.

We are all haunted warrior priests
Following a harsh creed
Doomed to survive a tragic hunted past
In a fanatical drive for destruction
Advancing on a broad front
Through the flames of consciousness
Braving the winter cold of being shunned
Crossing the watery obstacles of success
And smashing fortifications of healthy desire
With redemption just one sin away
The end of days
Promised us as equally
A judgment and a favor.

Cutsie pie Lord Byron with a club foot
A literalist who fought the war
   For Greek independence
Thinking he was reviving classical ideals
When he was really a dupe for Russian
   warm water expansionism
Bur fortunately for everyone
He spent most of his time limping around
Limping around blind drunk
Looking like
   Looking like
An an-an-angel.

Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany
Queen Victoria’s favorite granson
Had a withered arm, the left I think;
After he sacked Bismark
Statesmanship was conspicuously lacking
   Crisis followed crisis
   The road to war
Depressingly smooth and well-signposted
And the influence of the first of the world wars
Equally cataclysmic on the victors
   and victims alike:
Most of Europe of 1000 years was shattered
Three empires tumbled to dust
Wilhelm ended his days a commoner
Chopping wood
With his good arm
In the center of Holland.

We are all crippled warlords
Doing our best to force the end
We are always on the lookout for something
Hostile to the order
We are all ever on the side
Of any wild force
Mystical Redemption with Visible Historical Change!
We accompany each other into deathliness
Through only one may return to report it
Mystical Redemption with Visible Historical Change!
Not one, nor the other, but both
We are all crippled warlords.

It took an alliance of two crippled warlords
To defeat Nazi Germany
   The first
Joseph Stalin taught Hitler the techniques of tyranny
Got people arguing over two lies
Had whole nations in slave labor camps
Introduced periodic purges of officials
as state policy
For the purpose of uplifting the morale of survivors
Stalin was born with nine toes
And went to school with Gurdjieff.
   The second
Franklin Roosevelt was struck with polio
It left his legs paralyzed
But being confined to a wheelchair
Like the Vietnam veteran of later date
Did not prevent him from having lovers
Wouldn’t you?
If you were married to a pious cow like Eleanor?
Soul in the Earth
Soul in the Blood
My liver shall sing praises to the water and air
And in the end the soil of Europe
   was renourished by the blood
Of fifty-nine million people
And the Russian and American armies
By prior agreement
Stood facing each other on the Elbe
Waiting for the bell to ring
Beginning the next round.

We are all crippled warlords
Trying our best to cover the sky
Ye Ye, O lay eye
God on high
Man on earth
Ye Ye, O lay eye
God is God
Man is man
Everyone in his house
Everyone for himself?
We are all crippled warlords
Waiting for the sun to die.

John Kennedy, former President
was drugged to dull the constant pain
and shakes from Addison’s disease
Had a self-inflicted back injury
Gotten from crashing his PT boat into a dock
On a bet, he lost
Demanding yet another galaxy of medication
   Botched the Bay of Pigs invations
   Botched killing Castro
Conspired with Cardinal Cushing of Boston and
   Cardinal Diem of Saigon
To send Americans into Vietnam
Satisfying Pope John XXIII’s request to protect his interest
In the heroin business
   Finally Old Joe
His father bumped him off
The sacrificial son had his brains
Hamburgered in Dallas:
As a result of what Jack Kennedy started
but couldn’t finish
There was a Cuban army in Africa
And 1500 Soviet “technicians” in Laos
Controlling Golden Triangle opium production
When the USA lost this concession
They no longer had the gold
   To pay for oil
Only the bad die young.

Nothing is more powerful than a crippled warlord
Who sees history as a series
   Of improbabilities
   Of incongruities
Who has the angry readiness to throw
Everything overboard
A willingness, a longing
To become part of dissolution
We are all crippled warlords
Doing our best to force the end.

We are now all under obligation to enter the abyss
Let us surrender ourselves
“Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth
they little ones against the stones” — Psalm CXXXVII
Let us descend together into the abyss
   before it shuts again
Let us cram the mouth of impurity
with the power of holiness
   until it bursts from within
Bo-rooch at-to A-do-noy
E-lo-hay-noo me-lech ho-o-lom,
   matt-sir is-u-rim

Blessed art thou O Lord our God
King of the Universe
Who permittest the forbidden
   Who loosens all bounds
We are all crippled warlords
The Word
   that heals and
The Word
   that kills
Dwells in our mammal flesh
   and grows
      in grace.

[Requiem for Christian Loidl performed by William Levy and Dichters Dansen Niet at the Theatre Tachles on 12/16/04.]