The Manuscript »To the Apostle«
»I have the same captivating feeling when looking at an interesting manuscript as I do when looking at a good pen-and-ink drawing or a painting,« Lasker-Schüler writes in the short essay »Handschrift« (»Handwriting«) in 1910. Addressing her readers directly, she continues: »I am infinitely sorry that you will not get to see the manuscript of this essay. Although it is written in black ink, it looks blue, a deep blue, a blue of love«. Lasker-Schüler regularly sends handwritten versions of her poems to friends, acquaintances, or supporters. Over the years she develops her own repertoire of linguistic images and graphic symbols that she uses in drawings and texts. Whether she writes the word blue or uses blue crayons, the color represents a divinely inspired poetic, an innocent, honest love, and all that is good, beautiful, and just.
Among the countless poems and love letters that Lasker-Schüler wrote during the last years of her life to Ernst Simon, thirty years her junior, there is this curious object: half letter, half poem, and entitled »An den Apostel« (»To the Apostle«). In it, Lasker-Schüler addresses her beloved with »my Sweet. / I must cry your name« and closes with »Do not extinguish my ♥ [heart]. / And always / You will find your way. / Jussuf«. As far as the avant-garde use of material is concerned, Lasker-Schüler is in no way lagging behind her Classic Modern contemporaries. That the poem is written on an envelope that has been cut and folded open may be due to the poet’s momentary lack of a proper letterhead. Lasker-Schüler’s manuscripts, however, demonstrate too regular a use of unusual, or even inferior, materials for this to be pure coincidence. These materials are transformed into valuable objects through Lasker-Schüler’s artistic handwriting. As a unique writing surface, this envelope possesses a metaphorical significance that affirms the value of everyday and found objects in general. The appearance of the paper reflects the status of the text between postal correspondence and poetry.
The poem appears as »Mein Liebeslied« (»My Love Song«) in a magazine in 1942 and as »In meinem Schosse« (»In my Womb«/»In my Lap«) in her last book Mein blaues Klavier (»My Blue Piano«) in 1943. In the manuscript, the titular apostle is the Jewish philosopher Simon. Lasker-Schüler uses a blue crayon and the Christian name of a divine herald to metaphorically characterize Simon as such.
Since this religious address is absent in the printed poems, the latter lack an entire dimension, and the text evidently becomes more intriguing and exciting through the fact that Prince Jussuf is writing a homoerotic poem to a saint of the church: »My arms embrace your hips, / mirroring me / in your body’s effulgent light«. It is this most suggestive of verses, of all things, that is linked to the title in a kind of visual rhyme by the lines of blue crayon. For Lasker-Schüler, such papers are just as valuable and expressive as her graphic illustrations.
Else Lasker-Schüler, Star in my Forehead. Selected Poems by Else Lasker-Schüler, translated by Janine Canan, 2000.