Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Paul Celan

I imagine that the way I am before poetry is the way many are before contemporary art. Most of the time, I just don’t get it. I want something to hold on to – a narrative, an opinion – but, usually when I think I’ve got something, I get befuddled in the next line. I have a hard time going with the flow, letting the image rise up in my head, letting go of analysis.

I’ve got a huge challenge in front of me, then, with Paul Celan, whose 1960s poems experimented with poetics (I think I know what that means). He lay his faith in the word, not the lyricism of the word, and consequently many of his words are invented. I’m fascinated when I read about his poetry, but when I have an example in front of me, I need to draw on patience and a loose mind. You can’t rush through them.

Here’s an example, from his book Breathturn, translated from the German:

NO SANDART ANYMORE, no sandbook,
no masters

Nothing in the dice. How
Many mutes?

Your question – your answer.
Your chant, what does it know?



TJ said...

Some good writing here.
Nice to find you.

TJ (

Molly Stevens said...

Thanks for reading, TJ

Dana said...

Molly, I can't help but wonder what you think about reading poetry, especially Celan, in translation. Particularly when it comes to invented words.

I worry that the question begs only more analysis and is thus antithetical to your post. But, my curiosity is less about the poetry itself (which is fascinating) and more about your experience in using words in your artwork.

Molly Stevens said...

Good question, Dana. (Dana P?)

Translation can never exactly mirror the original, despite what is often expected of translation. But, nevertheless, translation is valuable.

Celan himself was a translator of poetry, and therefore, I conclude he believed it was a worthwile endeavor.

The idea is that a poem is not something fixed. It is not readable once and for all, and therefore a translation expands the life of a poem.

Celan himself said, "The absolute poem - no, it certainly does not, cannot exist."

I sound like some kind of expert, but I'm just getting all this from the translator's essay that introduces the book.

Thank you for relating this to my work. All these considerations will certainly shape how I use text in video. I think it expands the possibilities. So, expect some unintelligble videos soon.