Paul Celan: “Corona”

moon sea groyne beach

Aus der Hand frißt der Herbst mir sein Blatt: wir sind Freunde.
Wir schälen die Zeit aus den Nüssen und lehren sie gehn:
die Zeit kehrt zurück in die Schale.

Im Spiegel ist Sonntag,
im Traum wird geschlafen,
der Mund redet wahr.

Mein Aug steigt hinab zum Geschlecht der Geliebten:
wir sehen uns an,
wir sagen uns Dunkles,
wir lieben einander wie Mohn und Gedächtnis,
wir schlafen wie Wein in den Muscheln,
wie das Meer im Blutstrahl des Mondes.

Wir stehen umschlungen im Fenster, sie sehen uns zu von der Straße:
es ist Zeit, daß man weiß!
Es ist Zeit, daß der Stein sich zu blühen bequemt,
daß der Unrast ein Herz schlägt.
Es ist Zeit, daß es Zeit wird.

Es ist Zeit.

Paul Celan (b. 23 November 1920)

Autumn eats its leaf out of my hand: we are friends.
From the nuts we shell time and we teach it to walk:
then time returns to the shell.

In the mirror it’s Sunday,
in dream there is room for sleeping,
our mouths speak the truth.

My eye moves down to the sex of my loved one:
we look at each other,
we exchange dark words,
we love each other like poppy and recollection,
we sleep like wine in the conches,
like the sea in the moon’s blood ray.

We stand by the window embracing, and people
look up from the street:
it is time they knew!
It is time the stone made an effort to flower,
time unrest had a beating heart.
It is time it were time.

It is time.

Translated by Michael Hamburger

Photo credit: Moon, sea, groyne, beach by mole-volio

Inner Voice: Paul Celan reads his poem Mandorla


In the almond–what dwells in the almond?


What dwells in the almond is Nothing.

There it dwells and dwells.

In Nothing–what dwells there? The King.

There the King dwells, the King.

There he dwells and dwells.

Jew’s curl, you’ll not turn grey.

And your eye–on what does your eye dwell?

On the almond your eye dwells.

Your eye, on Nothing it dwells.

Dwells on the King, to him remains loyal, true.

So it dwells and dwells.

Human curl, you’ll not turn grey.

Empty almond, royal-blue.

(Translated by Michael Hamburger)

Adaptation: Poem to Graphic

Screib dich nicht (Nachlass)

Shmuel ben Yitzchak’s graphic image Schreib dich nicht (Nachlass)–or, Don’t write yourself (Deduction)–was completed in 2001. The title is largely taken from the opening line of an untitled poem by Paul Celan. As such, ben Yitzchak’s work is an adaptation of Celan’s poem.

How does one present the two works together? If they were exhibited in a physical gallery, they might be positioned next to one another. Even then, which one would be placed where? Would the priority of Celan’s poem (ben Yitzchak’s graphic was “inspired” by the poem) have any implications for their joint exhibition in a physical gallery? Would that mean the poem would be displayed to the left (or top) while the graphic would be displayed to the right (or bottom)?

Of course, in a physical exhibition the original size of ben Yitzchak’s (36 by 44 cm) would be a consideration as well. Or maybe the two works might be positioned in different parts of the gallery room–or even different rooms.

Many, though not all, of the possibilities for jointly exhibiting the two works poem and graphic in a physical gallery carry over to their exhibition in a virtual gallery. The virtual gallery cannot reproduce the physical presence of the two works in a physical gallery in which the observers move about while the exhibits do not. However, in the virtual gallery, the exhibits can move about. Shouldn’t that open up new possibilities?

Enough questions for now. I’ve prepared a joint “exhibition” of Paul Celan’s poem and Shmuel ben Yitzchak’s graphic in the Power Point (I know I know) shows below. If you read German try that one first, and if not, go directly to the English version that features John Felstiner’s English translation.
Celan-ben Yitzchak Exhibition (in German)

Celan-ben Yitzchak Exhibition (in English)

NOTE: Both the German text of Celan’s poem and John Felstiner’s translation are taken from Michael Hofmann, ed., Twentieth-Century German Poetry: An Anthology (NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005).