Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry by Paul Celan

($40 FSG)

If Picasso is said to have had a Blue Period, the postwar German poetry so faithfully rendered here into English can be seen as a constitution of Paul Celan’s “gray period”—a departure from the luxuriant surrealism, musicality, and themes of his younger years that shows the poet plumbing the depths of old dictionaries and various lexicons in search of a vocabulary untrammeled by the shadow of fascism. In these spare, sober books, Celan creates a poetry all his own by resurrecting “the very oldest layers of language,” as he put it, by disassembling then recombining words into difficult yet beautiful, representative compounds and placing them amidst cyclical/serial investigations of reality and being. A truly striking bilingual tome, both inside and out, with an elucidating introduction by translator Pierre Joris.

from “Lichtzwang | Lightduress”

For the larkshadow
laid fallow: the hidden

brought in: the experienced
stillness, a field, islandy,
in the fire,

after the
saturated hope,
after all
branched off fate:

the unrepentant, sung up
moss-victims, where you

search for me, blindly.


* * *


To fly under
the flood, past
raised black
sacrifice stones,

unendingly earthed melancholy
in the
undercarriage shafts,

drunken flightwriters on
the yearning-slope,
future found objects, silvery,
the cockpit’s skullery,

sight tunnels, blown
into the speechfog,

on all cables,

in the great, unextended
rimring your
hubbed shadow,


Posted by Alexander