Two Paul Celan Fragments
A few days ago I mentioned Mikrolithen sinds, Steinchen, the volume of Paul Celan’s posthumous prose writings that came out in 2005. Here are two fragments from the section on poetics in a first and still tentative translation:
#152. Aesthetics demand concealment and reward it, ethics demand openness and punish concealment.
#156. True poetry is antibiographical. The poet’s homeland is his poem, it changes from one poem to the next. The distances are the old, eternal ones: infinite like the cosmos, where each poem tries to assert itself as a tiny star. Infinite also the distances between his I and his You: from both sides, from both poles, the bridge is cast: in the middle, halfway across, there where the bridge pier is expected, from above or from below, is the place of the poem. From above: invisible and uncertain. From below: out of the abyss of hope for the distant, the future-distant kin [der Nächste].
. . .
Poems are paradoxes. Paradoxical is the rhyme that gathers sense and countersense: in a chance-place in language-time, which no one can foresee, it lets this word coincide with that other one for how long? For a limited time: the poet, who wants to remain faithful to the principle of freedom which manifests itself in the rhyme, now has to turn his back on the rhyme. Away from the border or across, beyond it, into the unlimited!
There are about 2 pages of notes/commentaries in the back section of Microliths they are, Pebbles concerning these 2 fragments.
#152 seems to date to 1951, and comes from a notebook containing drafts of the translation of the Apollinaire poem “L’adieu,” as well as reading notes on philosophical works by Mauthner, Leisegang and Heidegger. The text is found below a list of undated words from an unidentified non-philosophical text.
#156 is dated 1953/1954, and found in the form of a lightly handcorrected typescript. The commentators suggest that the context in which the fragment was found could link it to the French-German writer’s conference that took place in Paris in May 1953. They then cite several further places where Celan adresses the biographical, or rather the poet’s belief that biographical details are irrelevant or can actually lead to “muddy the clarity that matters” for the poems. They also note that the expression “both poles” recalls the 1969 poem “The Poles.”
Paul Celan texts © Suhrkamp Verlag, 2005, translations © Pierre Joris, 2006.