Jonathan presses me on some seeming contradictions in the good ol' comment box below. I really should go back and read that prose piece by Celan ("Conversation in the Mountains") before saying anything, but, hey, what the heck, this is blogging...

As I recall, Celan's little story of a walk & conversation in the Alps with a mysterious interlocutor is very playful and elliptical. But they circle around some deep questions about the nature of poetry, art and truth - the relations between these three.

& I think (& I could be way wrong) that the story emphasizes a certain coldness and inhumanity involved in the nature of artifice - its creation of models, of simulacra. He's thinking, maybe, about Plato's suspicions (the cave of images, & all that), &/or about the Biblical prohibition of images of God. The problem - which penetrates to language itself, and through all kinds of social/intellectual "constructs" - is that, in the very activity of art-making and symbol-making and image-making, humanity both alienates and reifies life - creates a spurious reality - loses touch with the roots of authentic being - loses its soul...

The poet is involved in a paradoxical activity. Perhaps Celan's concept shows some similarities to Simone Weil's "decreation", and Wallace Stevens' "ignorance" ("you must become an ignorant man", etc.). To the idea that poetry - compared to the other arts - is simple or "poor" art - "abstract", as with a mathematical theorem or a piece of Shaker furniture.

We are talking about a streak of deep iconoclasm in the spirit of poetry.

About the idea that the poet somehow absorbs and perfects all the other arts - absorbs them back into the primordial "word". And in the process, shakes off all the reifications of artifice : reveals the "nakedness" of human (& divine) truths. (Think William Blake.)

This is the deep paradoxical coil wherein poetry both perfects and inverts prose, art, etc. Radical truth-speaking at the source of the charming masquerade of rhetoric, artfulness and ornamentation.

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