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Weimar on the PacificGerman Exile Culture in Los Angeles and the Crisis of Modernism$
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Ehrhard Bahr

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780520251281

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520251281.001.0001

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Bertolt Brecht’s California Poetry

Bertolt Brecht’s California Poetry

Mimesis or Modernism?

(p.79) chapter 3 Bertolt Brecht’s California Poetry
Weimar on the Pacific

Ehrhard Bahr

University of California Press

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

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