The Later Poetry of Paul Celan

Breathturn-into-timesteadJack Hanson at The Quarterly Conversation:

Throughout his life, Paul Celan was haunted by the experience of the Shoah, and his later works see him undergoing something analogous to the turn in Heidegger’s thinking. Until the publication of Breathturn (which marks the beginning of Breathturn Into Timestead), Celan was heavily influenced by both traditional poetry from a variety of languages and the surrealists with whom he spent much of his youth. Even his darkest poems, such as the famous “Todsfuge,” or “Deathfugue,” contain an element of metaphorical lightness, a pleasure in the play of images, despite the horror of their content.

A man lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes
he writes when it grows dark to Deutschland your golden hair Margareta
he writes it and steps out of doors and the stars are all sparkling, he whistles his hounds to come close
he whistles his Jews into rows has them shovel a grave in the ground
he commands us to play up for the dance.

But, like Heidegger, Celan turned away from the traditional models of his field. This is not, of course, to say that he abandons the tradition of German poetry. If anything, despite his dissatisfaction with the trappings of an inherited poetics, Celan’s turn is his renewed attempt to carry through the Holocaust the central essence of that canon.

more here.