An ungathered Paul Celan Poem

The following poem was written 12.15.1962, during the period of composition of Die Niemandsrose, though not taken into that volume. Working on the later poem “Als uns das Weiße anfiel | When whiteness assailed us” I noticed that the opening phrase of the 1962 poem has been picked up and made part of the later poem. Here I propose a first translation of this earlier poem. (The later one will be part of my The Later Collected Poems of Paul Celan to be published next year). Note that Celan’s play on the homophonic words “mehr” = “more” and “Meer” = “sea” is lost in translation):

 

When from the libation-ewer more
than water came. When
pus came after the more.
And more than pus. When
the sea also
had come, then

a breath braided a face that was
sharp as the newly
born keel, standing upward, ready to travel, into
the other sea — the one
with the splinter and signs
and the signsplinters.

Don’t say there was
no lid
above the pair of eyes in
that face.
There were flightlids, lashed, the gazes
had their tent.

 

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Pierre Joris

Pierre Joris is a poet, translator, essayist & anthologist who has published more than 50 books, most recently, Meditations on the Stations of Mansur al-Hallaj (poems) from Chax Press and The University of California Book of North African Literature (volume 4 in the Poems for the Millennium series), coedited with Habib Tengour. Exile is My Trade: A Habib Tengour Reader edited & translated by Joris, and Pierre Joris: Cartographies of the In-between, essays on Joris’ work edited by Peter Cockelbergh, came out in 2012. Forthcoming are Barzakh — Poems 2000-2012 (Black Widow Press) & Breathturn Into Timestead:The Collected Later Poems of Paul Celan (FSG).

3 opinions on “An ungathered Paul Celan Poem”

  1. Good catch. Thanks for the note on the homophonic words “mehr” = “more” and “Meer” = “sea.” I’d have wondered about that!

  2. Many thanks for these hidden treasures, Pierre – just one query, is “puss” supposed to be “pus”? I’m challenged to make sense of the cat connections…

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