Celan 1 December

Read a few poems by Paul Celan at lunchtime. Experienced that mysterious & very special Celan-effect : the sense that out of extreme frailty come words of great strength & encouragement. Not so much for the poet himself, but for the reader. Reminded me of that phrase in one of the letters of his namesake, the Apostle (himself quoting the prophets somewhere, I guess) : "my strength is perfected in weakness."

So often it seems Celan's addressee is Mandelstam. Not only in the book Die Niemandsrose (which is saturated with Mandelstam). But say for example in this poem from the book that followed, Atemwende - the poem which begins "IM SCHLANGENWAGEN...", which Michael Hamburger translates as follows :

the white cypress tree,
through the surge
they drove you.

But in you, from
the other wellspring foamed,
on the black
jet remembrance
dayward you climbed.

I think this poem can be said to be addressed to the victims of Hitler, the victims of the 20th century. But I surmise there's also a specific subtext here, a poem of Mandelstam's (one from Tristia), which begins "Upon a sled laden with straw." The poem sketches a scene of the "young Tsar" being taken away on a sled or wagon, in the midst of his persecutors, to execution.


Andrew Shields said...

I hope I am not being too narcissistic to refer you to a poem of mine about Mandelstam, which to me means, among other things, that in the long run, the poets always win:


Henry Gould said...

That's wonderful! Bolshoi spasiba, Andrew -

(right away, while reading your 1st stanza, I thought of that 1st line in the OM poem : "The apartment is quiet as paper"....)


Andrew Shields said...

Henry, do you read German? If so, what inspired my Mandelstam poem was Ralph Dutli's biography of OM in German, which has not yet been translated into English.

Henry Gould said...

Gosh, I'll have to learn German, then! My wife has gotten pretty fluent in it - she can help. Danke et merci pour ce [password] inestimable.