Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Aimless Reading: The C's, Part 15.4 (Paul Celan)

Celan, Paul
Ian Fairley, Tr.
Two Volumes:
Fathomsums and Benighted


I bought this (at Talking Leaves) mostly for the short second volume, Benighted, which is a sequence of eleven poems Celan wrote in 1966, plus four others from the same period. It was originally published in an anthology of 'abandoned' works by several major authors, including Nelly Sachs and Samuel Beckett. According to the translator, the poems were not in fact abandoned but rather intended for publication in the wake of Fadensonnen, and are now published (though not all of them here) as a separate volume comprised of 35 poems.

This book served another useful purpose for me in that I wrote the first poem in To Be Sung, "Dark Time," by reading through the translator's introduction to Faddensonnen. My memory is of having lifted lines directly from the introduction and into the poem; however, comparing the two now it appears that I was lifting, then reshaping what I lifted quite dramatically.

Here's the first poem from Benighted (Eingendunkelt), in English and then in German:

THOUGHTLESS
against the smokescreens,
the hanging lantern burns
for us, below

Many-branched fire,
seeks now its iron, hearkens
to where, from neighboring flesh,
a hissing

comes,
goes,

short
minutes spell out
the glimmering,
grave
directive.

BEDENKENLOS,
den Vernebelungen zuwider,
glüht sich der hängende Leuchter
nach unten, zu uns

Vielarmiger Brand,
sucht jetzt sein Eisen, hört,
woher, aus Menschenhautnähe,
ein Zischen,

findet,
verliert,

schroff
liest sich, minutenlang,
die schwere,
schimmernde
Weisung.

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