Two Uncollected Poems by Paul Celan

As I work on commentaries for my collected Paul Celan translations (not a Complete Collected Celan, just all my translations starting with Breathturn) a few poems never included in any volume, though now gathered in the German Collected Editions, seemed relevant to include among the annotations. Here are two of these, from the time of SNOWPART ( i.e. 1968):


You and your
kitchensink German — yes, sink-,
yes, before — ossuaries.

Say: Löwig. Say: Shiviti

The black cloth
they lowered before you,
when your breath
swelled scarward,

brothers too, you stones,
image the word shut behind
side glances.

Note: here Celan (as he does in the published poem “Einkanter,”) cites the 16th Psalm, verse 8,  translated in the King James version as “I have set the LORD always before me: / because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” The Hebrew for “set before me” is “Shiviti.” “Lôwig” on the other hand remains an unidentified source.

Also from the summer of 1868, the following ungathered poem:

You Michaela,
and as you talk-
stammer, there:

You, aura,
and big-lipped like you,
Be-yidst, res-
ponded, Jewess,

you, knowing-unknowing,
at the point of indifference
of the reflexion
the bitter-planet spoke


Note: “aura” leads back to Celan’s reading of Walter Benjamin during the summer 1968; cf. On some Motifs in Baudelaire, specifically: “If we think of the associations which, at home in the mémoire involontaire, seek to cluster around an object of perception, and if we call those associations the aura of that object, then the aura attaching to the object of a perception corresponds precisely to the experience [Erfahrung] which, in the case of an object of use, inscribes itself as long practice.” [WBSW vol. 4, p. 337]

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2 Responses

  1. Once again, an enormous debt of gratitude for this- re aura- I don’t think it’s just confined to the Benjamin quote- do you?

  2. Carrie Etter says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these with us. My mind quickens as I read and reread them!

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