Controversial poem “avenidas”: not sexist in rehau

The Gomringer poem that Alice Salomon University no longer wants has found a new home in Rehau, Franconia.

Instead of Berlin, now in Gomringer’s home in Franconia: the poem "avenidas" Photo: Nicolas Armer

The beauty of sorting out is the comfort that a useless possession may still serve its purpose somewhere else. It’s a feeling familiar to anyone who has ever sold a stir stick or a racing bike, or put clothes in the nearest swap meet. With a, let’s say, out of time poem, which should no longer stand on the wall of the house, it is of course a little more difficult. You paint white paint over it until the words are no longer legible. That’s it. There is nothing to pass on. Perhaps that’s why the Alice Salomon University struggled with this step for so long.

Now the town of Rehau in Upper Franconia has proved us wrong. Since Saturday, the poem that Berlin students found too sexist can be read in public. And instead of feminist scolding, poet Eugen Gomringer was demonstratively awarded the cultural prize of the district of Hof.

As a reminder: the poem "avenidas", written in Spanish by the half-Bolivian Gomringer, describes the events on Barcelona’s promenade "Las Ramblas" from the point of view of an "admirer". To wit: "avenues and flowers and women". What bothers many about this sequence: women are equated with objects and are apparently only there to please a male flâneur.

After much toing and froing, Berlin’s Alice Salomon University has decided to paint over the poem on the facade and apply a new one there. In the fall, the university building will no longer be adorned with sexist verses.

Tourist magnet

In Rehau, the criticism does not seem to be shared. Gomringer’s poem has now found a new home on the wall of the local art museum. Perhaps it will attract more visitors to the museum?

With the "international" work, Rehau shows, trills CSU mayor Michael Abraham, that it is a "cosmopolitan city". As proof, Spanish music and tapas were served at the opening ceremony. The neighboring towns of Oberkotzau and Dohlau can certainly only dream of this.

But at the heart of the matter is the fact that Eugen Gomringer has lived in the town for more than four decades – and founded the Institute for Constructive Art and Concrete Poetry there. The people of Rehau show solidarity with their reviled poet. Good thing!

Because, first of all, what is offensive at a Berlin university is welcome in a provincial museum. And secondly, it can only be in the interests of the critics that the controversy surrounding Gomringer’s poem is also conducted in places where emancipatory criticism is apparently less widespread.

For feminists, this is actually a comforting thought.

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