Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Paul Celan

"If there is a country named Celania — as Julia Kristeva once proposed — its holy texts are filled with doubt, and they overcome this doubt almost successfully, with words of wrenching, uncompromised beauty. . .The book in your hands is not intended to become one of those heavy scholarly tomes that serve as a "proof" of one's position in the literary/academic hierarchy. Rather, this is a collection of various works, directed at, or inspired by, the words of Paul Celan. What we wanted to make was a living anthology, in which authors observe the poet's work, read it deeply, penetrate and discuss it. but also play with it, remake it, and attempt to fit it into their own worldviews.

A great poet is not someone who speaks in stadiums to a thousand listeners. A great poet is a very private person. In his privacy this poet creates a language in which he is able to speak, privately, to many people at the same time."

Ilya Kaminsky, from the Introduction



There was earth inside them, and
they dug.

They dug and dug, and so
their day went past, their night. And they did not praise God,
who, so they heard, wanted all this,
who, so they heard, witnessed all this.

They dug and heard nothing more;
they did not grow wise, invented no song,
devised for themselves no sort of language.
They dug.

There came a stillness then, came also storm,
all of the oceans came.
I dig, you dig, and it, the worm, digs too,
and the singing there says: They dig.

O one, O none, O no one, O you:
Where did it go, then, making for nowhere?
O you dig and I dig, and I dig through to you,
and the ring on our finger awakens.

translated from the German by John Felstiner

Homage to Paul Celan
edited by Ilya Kaminsky & G.C. Waldrep
Marick Press, 2011

"It has an inexorable logic about it. A poetry that seems — now that we have it — had to be. A six-pointed star etched into our minds — a splintered star.

How could it not "stand out"?"

~ Cid Corman


Conrad DiDiodato said...


Celan is one of my favourites, and for precisely Cid's reason: his was a "splintered star", the beauty shining always unevenly, appealing only to the pure of heart. I'd like to think that purity (in this vulgar world) is shared by artists primarily. In German and English (and it's well worth the pains to read him in the original), the poetry can move to tears.

I'd love to live in Celania but, of course, such a place can never exist, can it? Or it wouldn't exist for long. The academics and mainstream ghouls (whose idea of poetry is more spectacle than sublime)would move in, and probably drive one more poet into the river.

Bob Arnold / Longhouse said...

Yet, Conrad, "Celania" is a state of mind, even if fleeting, or momentary.

If children, maybe the happiest people on earth, could read him, they might show the way down the Celania" path.

Cid, typically, is such a child here
all's well, Bob