Eye-orb between the bars.

Ciliary lid
rows upwards,
releases a gaze.

Iris, swimmer, dreamless and dim:
the sky, heart-gray, must be near.

Skew, in the iron socket,
the smoldering splinter.
By the sense of light
you guess the soul.

(Were I like you. Were you like me.
Did we not stand
under one tradewind?
We are strangers.)

The tiles. Upon them,
close together, the two
heart-gray pools:
mouthfuls of silence.

Translated from the german by Joachim Neugroschel.

“Only one thing remained reachable, close and secure amid all losses: language. Yes, language. In spite of everything, it remained secure against loss.”-Paul Celan

Editor’s Note: This post is dedicated as a Happy Birthday wish to Matt Gonzalez, who introduced me to the importance of Celan.

Want to read more by and about Paul Celan?
As It Ought To Be

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  1. Sivan says:

    Lovely. How difficult he must be to translate! If it is Matt’s birthday, that means a year ago you and I were vanquishing gnats with the aid of a hired man. I miss you, my dear!

    • lezliemayers says:

      I think he got more difficult to translate in the books published after Speech-Grille (Sprachtgitter) because the poetry turned increasingly more idiosyncratic. I love the compound words he coins: herzgrau..heart-gray. I think german lends itself more to that kind of thing though. Okla would know.

      A year ago yesterday you were studying the math portion of the GRE while I ate a chocolate crepe on Divis and a displaced guinea pig cried in a box at our feet. Good times. I miss you. I miss crepes.

      • Okla Elliott says:

        German definitely lends itself to those compound words way more than English. Felstiner (one of Celan’s main translators and perhaps the foremost scholar of his work) has a great essay about the joys and difficulties of translating Celan. Celan sometimes includes Romanian, French, Yiddish, Hebrew, Middle High German, and his own fractured/lyric modern German in one poem. It’s just an insane task to translate him is all I can say.

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