Augusta Laar's book of poems about sleep

Who does not know them, the involuntarily awake nights in which you toss and turn from left to right and back again, try to breathe away the stress mindfully and finally get up with a sigh and turn off the alarm clock, on which the numbers almost mockingly show the time 3:44 ? If you don’t know them, these nights, you can stop reading this article immediately. Everyone else will find themselves in Augusta Laar’s volume of poems “Notifications against sleep”. And feel encouraged, exhilarated, comforted.

The poet, who lives in Munich and Vienna and is also known for her tireless commitment to the women poets’ Schamrock Festival – again planned for this autumn from November 4th to 6th in the Werksviertel – has already published several volumes of poetry, and perhaps this concept volume is hers most beautiful. One almost wrote a concept album, because the music plays a major role in this through-composed book, not only in view of the many quotations from songs, which, in addition to author quotations at the bottom of the book pages, provide a sub-text to the poems about it. “At night, the middle is the place where I sleep,” they say, for example Collapsing new buildings.

Throw sleeping cakes – a try?

But what to do if the ego does not find its center at night? Then the lyrical I or You by Augusta Laar searches “in old folders for the / high school diploma / the marginal notes of the teachers”, searches “for zen exercises for films / that you all already know”, reads all thirteen volumes of Marcel’s “Research”. Proust and dares to take even more painful actions: “while you are awake: / you try to scrub off the dolphin tattoo / that you no longer like / with a pumice stone”. That may at least be good against “nervous impulses”, against some tremors from tiredness.

This versatile artist also combats this with drawings. Nine of these are scattered throughout the book, probably giggling “made using eyeliner and mascara in the dark and with the left hand”. It’s fun when you laugh despite lack of sleep. As funny as some things are, other reflections on transience are just as melancholy. Short nocturnal sketches alternate with longer poems and cycles, variable in form, often playful in language, swinging as freely as the meandering thoughts before dawn.

So what to do “half awake in the sleep carousel at night”? Maybe follow Augusta Laar’s “Instructions for sleep hygiene”: “Throw sleeping cakes (on sleeping walls, on sleeping faces)”, or “fall from the sleeping tree”, or “draw sleeping shadows on the wall” or “smash the sleeping stairs in the sleeping house”. Or read this sleep book. You still have time to toss and turn afterwards.

Augusta Laar: Messages against sleep. Dreams, songs, sketches. Edition Melos 2021, 22 euros

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