Microreview: Rigorous witnesses – rereading Herta Müller’s The Hunger Angel through the lens of poetic transcription

Rigorous Witnesses Poem With References Slow
2022 September
Regina Dürig reviews Herta Müller, The Hunger Angel (orig.: Atemschaukel), Berlin: Hanser, 2009.
Author / Publisher
Regina Dürig for NewsLibrary
Author Info

Regina Dürig is a writer, performer, and assistant professor/mentor in creative writing, among others at the Bern University of the Arts HKB. She writes experimental prose, audio plays, children’s books, young adult novels, uncertain translations, and received her PhD from Plymouth University (UK) with a fabulatory study of classical philologist Alice Kober’s archive.




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Reviewed Publication

Herta Müller, The Hunger Angel (orig.: Atemschaukel), Berlin: Hanser, 2009.

Herta Müller’s novel The Hunger Angel (orig.: Atemschaukel, 2009) is a prose poem based on conversations with poet Oscar Pastior and survivors from Müller’s Romanian hometown about their immense suffering in Soviet labour camps in the late 1940s. Müller interweaves their narrations into one voice, an account of overwhelming intensity. While Müller does not specify which strategies she applied to compose the material, I suggest a rereading of The Hunger Angel as an example of poetic inquiry, or poetic transcription: creating a narrative from other people’s words, using one’s own porousness to let resonance unfold.

When supervising BA and MA art students writing the reflective part of their theses, I often feel the need for alternative (bold, artistic and meaningful, that is) ways to engage with interview data and literature. I wrote Rigorous Witnesses to encourage the use of poetic transcription – consequently, the poem is composed strictly from words I selected from articles about the method.

“Rigorous Witnesses” was composed with lines from the following articles:

Davis, Camea. 2021. ‘Sampling poetry, pedagogy, and protest to build methodology: Critical poetic inquiry as culturally relevant method’, in Qualitative Inquiry, 27(1), pp. 114-124.

Glesne, Corrine. 1997. ‘That Rare Feeling: Re-presenting Research Through Poetic Transcription’, in Qualitative Inquiry, 3(2), pp. 202-221.

Prendergast, Monica. 2009. ‘“Poem Is What?” Poetic Inquiry in Qualitative Social Science Research’, in International Review of Qualitative Research, (Los Angeles: Sage), 1(4), pp. 541–568.

Richardson, Laurel. 1992. ‘The Consequences of Poetic’, in Investigating subjectivity: Research on lived experience, pp. 125-137.