Sunday, August 18, 2013


The glockenspiel is a percussion instrument mounted in a frame. It consists of a series of steel or alloy bars of graduated length and pitch arranged in two rows chromatically. Sharps and flats stowed away in the chrome attic.
I like the word ‘glockenspiel,’ which is German, and means “bell play.” I like it when a word can do this. I like it when a word can rise like a loaf in the oven of the head and produce a fragrance of morning warmth. Words are a stirring of the odor of sound. Sound as form of afflatus, or phoneme. Sound as sound. Sound sound. Sound on a sound in a sound by a sound.
Distortions of sound form bulbs. Burst on the page in fire and color. Chrysanthemums of fire blooming on a summer night.
It’s very similar to gardening. If you plant a squash you get a sycamore.
My language is your language. I don’t own the language. Any language. No one owns a language. I find this very exciting. It’s how I navigate. I walk beside a fire. I pursue a chimera of echoes. My diversions are simple and topographic. The surrounding earth is sublime. I hear echoes beneath the language that extrude ganglions of ghostly caravan. I delight my eyeballs with the odor of definition. The odor of definition varies from word to word. Some words smell like clouds. Some words smell like lightning flashing in a cloud. Sulfurous. And hot.
Little Richard polishes his piano with an insoluble C sharp. The words that I am using to describe this curve into calculus and modulate the vividness of water. And this is how you begin with a glockenspiel and end up with a piano. Language is slippery. You’re trafficking in shadows. My thoughts on this shift from day to day. I’m certain that language is a garden for the hybridization of words and the development of metaphors. But then I think no, that’s too complicated, too static. Language is more volatile than that. It’s more like a gas, or hallucination.
Sometimes the words scatter like crustaceans and sometimes the words demand the elasticity of rubber. My ears are laboratories for the study of waves.
I like the way words travel through an argument, convulsing like torrents on a map of fjords and aqueducts.
Consider a constancy and you will discover a spin.
The paper towels go so quickly. Where do they go? The words go in search of paper towels. The words are not my words. The words are words searching for paper towels.
Because there is a quiddity of things. An old poet getting on a plane. Could be me. Could be you. The question to ask is: do words separate us from the essentials of reality, or do they join us to a reality that wouldn’t exist without them? And what is the language of clouds? What is the language of stars? What is the language of light and mud and the naked air? Air is the language of air. Mud speaks mud. Stars speak stars. It is the play of bells. Bluster. Potato. Glockenspiel.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Sound of Cézanne

There are so many sounds, such a colossal variety of noise and tone, yet so few words available to describe them. Our refrigerator is an orchestra. It produces so many different sounds it blurs the distinction between translation and tumult, babble and elucidation. The refrigerator speaks a dark language of cold and ice and tetrafluoroethane. Sometimes it sounds like a terrible wind howling across the steppes of Siberia, and on other occasions more like a giant metal bird murmuring contentment in an abstraction of milk and crumbled Feta.
But what is the sound of a pebble on the bottom of a brook? What is the sound of a pituitary gland forming a pearl of morphine? The ghost of Frank O’Hara hanging ornaments on a poem? The blaze of an irrational sun cresting a horizon of fens and Arctic moss?
I thread the phantom of a translucent hysteria. It sounds like the earth abandoning itself to a dream of dots and jingles.
The sound of your eyes crawling over this sentence excites the strum of a thousand banjos.
The visible is sometimes invisible and the invisible is sometimes visible. There is a frontier where this phenomenon flows back and forth like a long velvet tide. The sound of this is a sigh of orange on a thicket of Milori green. The sound of this is summer. The sound of this is Cézanne.
Describe the voice of Lisa Fischer. Use sparks and semaphores.
The pavement has a marvelous way of expressing the weather. When the rain hits it makes the cars sound like hyphenated beer steins.
Stains of sound on a winter evening. The sound of a throat warmed by a turtleneck sweater which isn’t a sound so much as a caress of wool.
What is the sound of oblivion colliding with a city? Lightning. Thunder. Buzz of a tattoo gun.
A veneration for garlic stumbles on a disentangled emotion. The sound of it vibrates in the finger of a museum official pointing at a painting by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot titled Storm at Sea.
France sounds like an amalgam of swords and postage stamps. England sounds like a patch of  skin soliciting wisdom with a wrinkle.
I sit beside an empire of sound. I wear a necklace of words. Can you hear it? Can you hear the condensation of experience, the slow distillation of a reflection on a sheet of paper?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Things Excite Me

Things excite me an old album my desk. My desk is a world of wood and grain and memory a landscape of knobs and drawers coffee stains on index cards photographs passport ranchers in Missouri. Our tidepool is ripped by the boat moving across the river. I smell a loaf of freshly baked pumpernickel there is a glow in my head an horizon of flames against blue sky. The structure of a song is a glorious bloodstream muscles bones vessels lungs. 
A tug named Wahkiakum answers the waves with hawsers. There is a song about it for piano, armadillo, and viola pomposa. The viola pomposa produces a sound slightly darker than a viola and should not be confused with a musk-ox or graywacke. Memory, on the other hand, is neither tug nor tentacle but a power of the mind to revive perceptions which it has once had. These perceptions, I say, once awakened and brought back to life, may then be immersed in the waters of the mind where they may be experienced as jelly, bog wood, or interior monologue.   
My memories are often astonishingly clear early summer 1967 the number 132 crossing the South Park Bridge the Duwamish gleaming below mesh concrete Boeing factory docks I hear the Beatle’s “A Day in the Life” for the first time coming from somebody’s transistor radio.
I read the news today oh boy about a lucky man who made the grade and though the news was rather sad well I just had to laugh and I continued to work walked down that awful ramp into the factory dark machines pounding whirring buzzing drills saws lathes presses carbide grinder smell of grease acrid chemicals for cleaning freshly molded metal parts there was a huge vat of the stuff I worked with a guy who looked like Keith Richards began his day with Dexedrine I lasted until late summer than up and took off for California and Jim Morrison’s Crystal Ship.
My life is riding a threshold of change everything is a puzzle everything is desire everything is chemistry everything is fight or flight everything is letters written expecting answers.
And it never changes it keeps changing. Organisms in a tidepool materialize as Ginsberg’s Howl assumes life and form stick that book on the shelf above the fireplace it is a shape against the beautiful air it wallows in sounds it is the spark in a car that gets it moving puts those gears into motion. There is moisture on the windows. Moisture always makes sense. This is my poem of the morning out there is a whole eternity and a fire within causes the lion to roar.
The elbow is a marvel of hinge and mobility. The wall is a marvel with a window in it. This is a speaking device. It sneezes stars. I feel these sounds are in love with the savannah. Indigo and red scramble to the deck of an aircraft carrier. I admire your ability to imagine this. I admire your ability to make signs that turn into images. Here is a hat for you: it has a large white plume and a broad black brim. Ride the microphone to glory my friend stir the meaning of meaning into many meanings. For there is meaning in meaninglessness and meaning in an infantry of ants in New Mexico life is indigo my friend life is velvet and howls.
I love the idea of a suitcase as much as the actuality of the suitcase itself. I can say the same of a river any river the Danube the Mississippi the Amazon a river is a brilliant phenomenon. So is a concertina. My sensations are my wealth a glaze of sweat on the skin my favorite shirt drying in the closet the sun gently moving toward the horizon a lost world of shadows and Celtic pterodactyls flash of a camera tray of ice cubes the sound of a stone in the middle of a stone the hushed obscurities at the frontier a man strumming a guitar a group of men raking freshly laid tar on a highway gargantuan bats our enchantment with one another an errant bikini left in the rain the glow of light in the Arctic ice.
I hold an agate the face of the rock is silent as the Buddha. A cave of minerals and smells at play in the senses the eyes the nose the skin the feeling of darkness penetrating everything my advice is to move slowly cautiously assemble a frog wander the sand as a chunk of ice adrift in salt water shake your fist with a handful of pebbles tickle the Buddha’s belly.
The poem cuts the air heavy feet in the middle of the night bring the naked odor of death the poem is a device with legs and a soft white underbelly through which we see the river move and culminate in snow. The world is nascent as jade. Images bleed from this incision. Hold the rope until the animal settles down. Hold it taut. Hold it evenly as patterns on a snake. A leap into the water. The glide of hypnosis in Arctic depths. The bears of the north in their hovercraft of steam.
Perspective is alterable. Mint awakens the palate. Mint mints mint. The mint of words is a dime of subtleties.
The feeling I get in the morning is the smell of crystal in a mountain brook a freight train on the prairie the silent bears in their silent fur. Nothingness is nothing amuse your mind with a story even bacteria have feelings the maturity of wings comes with time.
The poem is a winch creaking with syllables packets of sound like grain silos on the horizon a puff of air lifting a gunny sack natural as the night and its stars or a universe toppling over.
I am amphibian I don’t really know what to call this emotion it’s black and heavy but also an eye opening a pupil dilating as the resistance of currents creates electricity creates warmth the quiet before the storm linen in Kansas freshly folded on a Kansas bed.
Hand me that dream, will you? The one with the dragonflies and roots and translucence. The one where the emotions become realities of freshly poured cement a map crinkling as it unfolds.
The warmth of a skin a river on the mind.
Lips maneuvering words. An old man making a sandwich. A Monte Cristo. On sourdough.

Monday, August 5, 2013

It All Comes Down to Rain

I feel a comedy of feathers emerge from my skin. I become a bird. I become an inference. I become a direct object and an intermediary cabbage.
And I don’t like cabbage. That’s how serious I am. That’s I ridiculous I am. I don’t even know for sure what “I am” means. I is an overtone. A suggestion. A bird. A cabbage. A cabbage bird.
Identity spurts from the sternum and prickles with weird coordinates. Heaven sits cockeyed by the edge of a cliff. We must leap aboard when we get the chance. Meanwhile, there is soup, and litmus paper, and cloth. Cloth may refer to clothing, or it may just be cloth. Cloth.
We fold our desires and pack them into our hearts and head for Paris. We arrive in time to see Henri Poincaré ride a swan down the Champs-Élysées.
I like the thickness of syntax when it spins in the water and makes the sentence move forward through a cloud of midnight postage.
The fork is a utensil. The spoon is a postulate. But it is the knife that comes to a point.
I inflate my frustration until it reveals the muscular wallpaper of a meticulous opinion.
I explore the face of a genial distance. There’s an elegy on the loose and I want to see it before it disappears into a good mood. The road is gravel, though I suspect you already knew that. You can hear it crunch under the tires of these words. Which aren’t even round. They’re oval. This causes the sentence to wobble, and go up and down, as if at sea.
I remember an old Swedish church on the prairie, with a foundation of stone. It had long since ceased to function as a church, but was its door continued to stay open. The wind flung it back and forth. It would creak open then slam shut as if invisible people were coming and going. Ghosts, I suppose. You could call them ghosts. Or conceits. Ideas. Dreams. An idea of invisible people in my head. An idea of invisible people in the invisible heads of invisible people.
The door of our apartment is a continual fascination. It has a little peephole in it. If somebody’s making a bunch of racket in the hallway you can see who it is. Once I saw Abraham Lincoln doing his laundry. He looked abstracted, as always, and obsessed with holding the so-called union together. He wore boxer shorts: red hearts on a white background. On another occasion the Marquis de Lafayette paraded back and forth in a sugar of profligate oscillation.
I am surrounded by a mosaic of noise. There are sounds that are easily digested, and others that lead to dreaming. I’m not at all sure how to define music. Does anyone really know how to do that? Music is to sound what brass is to distillation. The drip of whiskey into a big oak barrel.
Think of steam. Now think of sarongs. And Malaysia. Time operates differently in different spaces. Different geographies will vary translations of time. Sometimes you will see it crawl over the knuckles of an arthritic hand, and on other occasions and in other circumstances it will slide under the bellies of fish in scintillations of light and shadow.
Why are spiders so difficult to coax out of a bathtub? You’d think they’d be anxious to ride a hand out of that porcelain into liberty. But they don’t. They skedaddle at the least provocation.
If it’s hot enough, I will put my running shirt on the porch railing to dry in the sun. Otherwise, I have to take it out back and shoot it. I have buried a lot of running shirts. One day their ghosts will arise from the drawer and dance in the darkness like one of those old-timey cartoons of skeletons and cats.
One afternoon after I hung my shirt on the railing I felt a young rain tree brush my skin.
Sensations are the pixies of our lives.
Is it wise to harbor so many generalities? Not when you’re my age. Deductions become inductions. The redwood, bathed in light, touches the sky. A storm brews. Lightning stumbles on an electron. I stop to ponder an elephant. The elephant has been painted on the side of a barn, and is pink and happy with an upturned trunk. When you’re young, everything is on arrival. When you’re old, everything is on departure. The difference between them is not so large. The difference between them is that of a muscle on bone, camaraderie in an airplane factory.
Light survives the darkness. This is a daily occurrence. I get up, make the bed, go to the bathroom, take a piss, look at my face in the mirror. My face trickles down the mirror in beads of water. I remember looking younger. I remember that younger person I used to be. I remember the highways that were traveled. The cars driven and repaired. Gaskets replaced. Fan belts replaced. Too bad you can’t replace a body so easily. Body work the mechanics call it. Medicine has a different name for it: abnormality. You have an abnormality. I’ve known this my whole life. Poetry is an abnormality. Poetry is a big abnormality. Poetry is a huge abnormality. For which there is no cure. Except more poetry. More abnormality.
Adjectives are the adipose tissue of the sentence. Fat. Adjectives can make a sentence fat. This, for instance, might be considered a big fat sentence, an abnormality beginning with a demonstrative pronoun and spitting blue fire from a mouth of ink and memory.
I feel the kiss of California. I speak to a canvas with a paintbrush dipped in a gob of blue. My feelings waltz when I cross the border. When I enter a state of abandon, the painting gets easier. The painting becomes goats. Cylinders. Forceps.
A willow grounds the elasticity of dirt. The stream urges conference with the hills. The hills confer with the sky. The sky argues back with rain.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Summer Celan

I will always remember this as the summer I discovered Paul Celan. I was familiar with the name. If you spend much time at all in the precincts of contemporary poetry you stand a very good chance of hearing, seeing, reading, stumbling upon the name Paul Celan. It is like hearing of an exotic country where a lot of painful and beautiful things have occurred, a place at once alluring and frightening, hellish and paradisiacal. A place where opposites are commingled in a blush of twilight air, where quivers of the ineffable glimmer among the debris of the literal.
I came to Celan by an indirect route. My wife Roberta had read an autobiographical account of meetings and talks with Paul Celan by the French poet Jean Daive intriguingly titled Under the Dome: Walks with Paul Celan, translated by Rosmarie Waldrop and published by Burning Deck in 2009, and said that it was a beautiful and moving book. That Paul Celan was a haunted figure who wrote a remarkably intense and riddling poetry. That Paul Celan was from a Jewish family living in a remote part of Europe called Bukovina, which at the time of Celan’s birth in the 1920s was part of Romania and is now a part of the Ukraine. That Paul Celan’s parents had been interned in a concentration camp after the Nazis occupied Cernăuți. That Paul Celan had tried arguing his parents into leaving the country but that his parents had insisted on staying at home and that he’d gotten so angry that he went to spend the night at a family friend’s house and it had been on that very night that his parents were arrested and sent by train to an internment camp in Transnistria where his father died of typhus and his mother, exhausted by forced labor and no longer able to work, was shot dead. Paul, who had later been arrested and taken to a labor camp in the Romanian Old Kingdom, learned of their deaths during an exceedingly cold winter. That, partly as a result of immense survival guilt and the pain of these events, Celan had developed a highly ambivalent relationship with the German language. His mother had loved the German language and insisted on speaking it in the house. The language became imbued with conflicting emotions, conflicting values. German became a subject of joy and torture, a thing to bend and distort, a hell and an illuminating energy, a monstrous obstruction and an engine of deliverance.
Ultimately, the pain would prove too overwhelming, too enduring. Paul Celan ended his life by suicide, entering the Seine from Pont Mirabeau about April 20th, 1970, around Passover. A strong swimmer, he drowned unobserved.
Shortly after Roberta finished reading Under the Dome, another book appeared: Breathturn, poems by Paul Celan translated by Pierre Joris. This was a small book, published by Green Integer, on which Paul Celan’s face smiles amiably, his eyes peering out deep and dark and penetrating.
These books occupied the periphery of my consciousness for several years. Then, having decided one day to go to Paris rather than buy a car, I began reading them. I started with Jean Daive’s book, eager to get a view of Paris, acquaint myself with the names of some of the places we might visit. I did not know how powerfully the book would influence me, or how truly extraordinary Celan’s poems would turn out to be.
Under the Dome is presented in fragments. There is no narrative chronology beginning with their first meeting and continuing till his death in 1970. Paul Celan appears and disappears at different times on different occasions so that there is a feeling of a continuous present, a period of time roughly from 1965 to 1970, Paul Celan’s last, increasingly dark years, recollected from a distance of 20 years in a different part of the world, a Greek Island “amid the still green pears of a café set back from the sea…” Daive identifies the Aegean with an elusive, intangible pain. “The Aegean Sea is in front of me. Against my table and beyond my book, pines, waves breaking on the sand. The Aegean is a wound. I never talk of it. It is blue, transparent, I see it. I don’t see the wound.”
Always nearby is a donkey whose immobility serves to underline a spiritualistic distance of some testimonial, unconquerable mass of time. “He does not eat. He does not work…. The donkey is all I think about. He augments a distance…. In the solitude of the island, the donkey’s presence sometimes rends the air. He cries, he weeps, he brays. I hear him. And I hear within me a still living mass fall into the sea, into the Seine.”
The donkey is a medium, a meridian collapsing the barriers of time, the past from the future, the future from the past. The donkey is assertively there, occupying space, yet seems to be outside time, occupying a zone similar to that of a fundamental plane marking an imaginary sphere of the present (a café on a Greek island) to its counterpart in the past (Paris in the late 60s)  and so creating the hemispheres of an imaginary zone where events in the past  appear to be projected on the inside surface of a celestial sphere, lucid and phantasmal, like images in a camera obscura, as if the mind were a lens and the sky were the underside of a dome. Jean Daive peers across this horizon at events that continue to occur in a living tableau of the past, in which chestnuts thud to the earth and he and Paul Celan “walk side by side, the Seine black on our right.” 
We step over ladders, tables, chairs, cross bridges, walk along façades, railings, more façades, walls, more walls. Two voices. We are two voices. One low, the other toneless. Many juvenile gestures. Complicit looks. Smiles. Lots of complicity. We linger under the mass of a paulownia, then make for the chestnut trees farther on. Night. Moon. We talk. Jubilantly. The “Aufklärung.” “Hung up on the inner corpse,” Paul Celan quotes Artaud. “There are two ideal states for man: extreme simplicity and extreme culture.” A remembered poster: “The One Alone exists.” We look down on the moist leaves. Rustlings that we interpret. We advance into the swinging night. The invisible.
“Syntax torments the narrative that words cannot untangle,” writes Daive . “A story means progression, means torment.” Daive’s fragments oppose progression. Each is a dreamscape, a dream place, phantasmal and outside the limits and torments of time. “The poet’s room is full of words,” observes Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Reverie,
words which move about in the shadows. Sometimes the words are unfaithful to the things. They try to establish oneiric synonymies between things. The phantomalization of objects is always expressed in the language of visual hallucinations. But for a word dreamer there are phantomalizations through language. In order to go to those oneiric depths words must be given time to dream. 
The news of Celan’s death is trauma. It leaves a scar, a tear in the membrane of time, and causes a break with the grounded and literal, with everything in fact. Even language: “My distress afterwards. Lasts and lasts. A month of emptiness, of anguish. Of no solid ground. Days absolutely empty. I feel his death in me as a break with the human world. With language.”
The incidents related in fragment are marked by the kind of vividness, the kind of lucidity that accompanies a heightened sense of the transitory. “I may know that our travels on earth are a dream. They must be. Interrupted by the flash of an encounter.”
It is these sudden bursts, these éclats of lightning-bright insight, the rush of lucidity into the shadows and vague apprehensions of our consciousness, these profound experiences of the unsayable, the ineffable, the that take our breath away. That give a start. We pause. We reflect. We resume our breathing. But with an augmentation. With an inhalation of fumes from an abyss, which we call inspiration, a magnitude of excitement characterized by an acute sense of otherness, particularly the inaccessible other in oneself. It is a species of awakening that Celan termed “Atemwende,” or “Breathturn,” and provided as title to a collection of poetry published in 1967. “Poetry… holds its breath before the problematic legitimacy of submitting the question of life to the Question of Being, of life to Being,” observed Jacques Derrida in his book on the poetics of Paul Celan, titled Sovereignties in Question in English, Schibboleth in French.
One imagines the color red as a whisper emanating from jagged tear in the canvas of time. Followed by silence. A deep, impenetrable silence, aphorisms of frost on the bump of being. Furrows imprinted with the hooves of deer, which may also be the dance of stars.
“Moderation is never obscure, and excess is always captive of knowing,” Celan tells Daive on one of their walks in Paris’s Contrescarpe. The Place de la Contrescarpe is in the ancient Faubourg Saint-Médard and is the axis of a large, formerly working class district, that spreads to the south on both sides of the market street Rue Mouffetard. It is legendary for being a haven for outsiders. It is said that François Villon and Rabelais frequented this neighborhood. The wine was cheap and untaxed.
“By his side,” writes Daive, “I feel enclosed in a dark knowing without unease, without irritation. He is aware of it: no stranger to anything in the world.” “A world,” Daive continues,
as in a dream, nocturnal, unraveling around the paulownias of the Contrescarpe. Crates stained with peach juice, crates full of half rotten tomatoes, black hands eating almost liquid pears and bluish hearts of lettuce…. We walk down Rue Mouffetard… The clouds scatter in the distant sky and beyond the sky.
“There are two worlds,” Celan tells Daive, “the world and the world of the star. And I haven’t yet mentioned the world of the shoelace.”
There is also the world of the shell.
“Toward the end of winter,” Daive writes, “Paul visits me on Rue Coquillière.”
He crosses the footbridge and notices the three leaves carved in lead. He comes in, charmed by the place. “Your place is a place of poetry. A poet’s place.” Too taken aback to reply, I wait for him to finish his praise to announce: “You know, the meal will be just as simple.” “Ah.” “Tomatoes with shrimp.” “Ah.” “Tomatoes with shrimp, the shrimp have been shelled one by one by…” “Like my poetry, in short: every verse has been shelled, every word.” “Yes.”
Daive is also a photographer, has the eye of a photographer. “A first portrait,” he writes midway into the book, “[Paul Celan] is waiting for me on the sidewalk of rue d’Ulm. Against the light, I surprise him with his head inclined, listening, his ear glued to an invisible wall: time. He is auscultating time.”
My intrigue mounts. I ask Roberta if I can see her book of Celan’s poetry. She brings me Breathturn, Celan at his densest, the poems published in 1967, translated into English by Pierre Joris, and published by Green Integer in 2006.  I flip to one of the poems: “When I knead the lump / of air, our nourishment, / it is leavened by the / letters’ shimmer from / the lunatic-open / pore.”
The brevity, the multilayered density, the freakish syntax, the intensely metaphorical language carried to an extreme of imaginative wildness, is characteristic of Celan’s remarkable sensibility. This is the first time I have encountered a poetry of such startling originality and energy since my first discovery of Rimbaud in 1966, or Les Chants de Maldoror by Comte de Lautréamont that same year. The poems are triumphs of the creative spirit over psychological pain. It is unfortunate for me that they are written in German, as I’ve spent the last several decades trying to learn French, and haven’t mastered that language sufficiently to move on and learn another language. Celan’s magnificent adventures in German, however, may tempt me to wade into the language just a little bit. I do know that one of German’s more droll and wonderful characteristics, and certainly a pull on my attention, is an openness to neologism, the creation of new words by welding two or more nouns together. The result is often a shiny amalgam of semantic juncture.
One of the more remarkable words I have encountered in Breathturn (German Atemwende) which is itself an amalgam of ‘breath’ and ‘turn,” is “wortdurchschwommenen” which Joris translates as “worddrenched.” Worddrenched is quite wonderful, which is how it came to catch my attention, for one can imagine a being  -  a poet   -  dripping with words, or envision the work itself sodden with linguistic possibility. I do have a pocketbook German dictionary, and access to any number of online dictionaries and translation services, and so I did a little more research into this word and arrived at a clunkier, more literal translation as “word thoroughly swum through.”
It is a concept which can be experienced, felt, perceived, explored as a pool of syllables, as a stream rippling with semantic possibility, as a medium to engage physically, bodily, and in which might also be found a deep silence. The poems do not move fluidly. Quite the contrary: they halt, they stumble, they collide. If there is swimming, it is that of the person who has waded into a rough stream, balancing themselves very carefully over a series of jagged, slippery rocks until coming to a deep interruption in the stream, a tranquil depth in which to immerse themselves.
The word for ‘swim’ in German, ‘schwimm,’ is very close to English. Water, in German, is wasser. To drink, trinken. One can hear glass in that word, a toast being made, glasses clinked. Reading Celan one almost immediately begins sewing associations. One could also say sowing associations. Scattering seed. In German, samen. Almost the same as English semen. Because of his conflicted feelings about the German language, Celan’s poetry imparts a visible agitation, a struggle that stresses and strains his language as much as he plays with and inseminates it, impregnates it with the capacity to dream, imagine, set oneself adrift in reverie. As soon as we seem to connect with the sense of otherness the poem incarnates, it slips away, disappears with a flick of its vowels. And we must plunge deeper into that sea to find it again.