Excerpts from Paul Celan, ‘microliths’

Translated by Pierre Joris



16 He who transforms himself wants, being the same, to become someone else.

Shape = semblance

17  There is no such thing as the Ibolithic, you say! Well, where would we wind up if we agreed with that? For then the Lithic wouldn’t exist either, the basic Lithic, this idiom worked up with such great pains. And Paleo, Mezzo and Neo, so excellent, they too would then be as if extinguished — and — do I dare ask — where in this case would we be at? We, so proud to have managed to put the ice age behind us… Why, I heard it asked — and I hear resentment roiling in that question, yes indeed, resentment! —, Why? Was that necessary? We stand pretty now, we, those of today… Gone, our past, gone… And our future? Our future-bearing future? I’m asking, I’m not answering. Let the others, the anti-iboliths, answers. But, isn’t it so, Rumpelstiltskin, we two, you and I, we want into the Open once again, into the forest, and crossing the swath that leads to the nuclear reactor, and where the honeysuckle, so beguiling, rambles, we, despite the danger of falling into discredit, even here, we want to sing

18 Verbier, 6.25.57.

18.1 We were one flesh with the night.

18.2 In the gaze you throw at it, the looked at awakens.

19 10.26.57.

Poems are passageways. A toi de passer, Vie! [Your turn to pass through, Life!]

20 A paradise was indeed promised us, but to no one among us, not even to the fiercest believers, a vehicle with tail flukes, so as not to remain unnoticed on the roads up there, when the driver chauffeurs us to the confectioner’s.


21 For so much anguish, so much symbolism!




Certain “citizens” and the poem: They buy the surprise bag; one knows vaguely what’s in it, it won’t be much, but then it doesn’t cost much either, and if one happens to visit the fair and one has enjoyed the lady without lower- but with upper body, one’s amusement also demands this. And when what’s in it turns out — but here too the buyer’s superior humor can prove itself — to be even cheaper than cheap, there still remains the fun that all of that was “too.”

23 9.9.59.

…. and sounded off against his God.





also pre­membering, pre­thinking and storing of what could be

Yeats: I certainly owe more to that poet than to Fr. surreal.

Strange. In front of a candle
Now I tried to render visible the grain of sand (Buber, Chass. — //Nibelungens[on]g) that had to have
been sunk into me too at some time.
Mother, candles, sabbath
But the poem lead me out of this idea, across to a new level with this idea


162.1 ­

It is part of poetry’s essential features that it releases the poet, its crown witness and confidant, from their shared knowledge once it has taken on form.  (If it were different, there would barely be a poet who could take on the responsibility of having written more than one poem.)


—Poetry as event
Event = truth (“unhiddenness,” worked, fought for unhiddeness)
Poetry as risk
Creation = /power­activity /Gewalt­tätigkeit (Heidegger)
Truth ≠ accuracy (­i­: consistency)

–in each first word of a poem the whole of  language gathers itself —
–handiwork: hand / think through connections
such as “hand and heart”
handiwork — heartwork

Beginning: “Poetry as handiwork”? The handmade crafting of  poetry?




[These are Celan’s first notes toward the conference project “On the Darkness of Poetry” 
which remained unfinished.] Pjoris


         || Mysticism as wordlessness
	    Poetry as form

241.2 The poem is inscribed as the figure of the whole language; but language remains invisible; 
what is actualizing itself — language — steps, as soon as it has happened, back into the realm 
of the possible.“Le poème,” writes Valéry, “est du langage à l’état naissant;” /“Poetry,” writes 
Valéry, “is language in the state of being born;”/ Language in statu nascendi, thus, 
language freeing itself.


241.1	Yesyes, not only the Geiger-, the “syllable-counters ” too, though despised by 
a literature that calls itself engaged, register something.


     →  241.2  

aesthesis is not enough; the…		   ;noesis is not enough; 	                   …		  
                         ;  what’s needed is personal presence, what’s needed is conversation; 
conversation and entertainment are different things; conversations are demanding, 

241.3 ——–——–
Idea of the bracket			(voicedness)	 
			 also the this vibrato of the words has se-
			 mantic relevance

241.4 ______

The poet: always in partibus infidelium

241.5 ______

          Das      Kampaner Tal, p. 51, footnote:
	||... “as on the Jews’ houses (in memory of ruined Jerusalem), something
             always 		has to be left unfinished.” 
	     to    remember in the poem — remembrance as absence — 

241.6				Language planes

	||   Nationallibr.: Bühler —



No syllogistic enriched with this or that theory of association, no logistic will ever be 
able to do justice to the fact of “poem” — the alleged thought- or language-scheme of 
the poem is never “finished.” 



syntactic (and other!) bracketings 









139. Psalm:   nox illuminatio mea 

	      ... darkness is like the light 


246.1					               an uneasiness similar to that in
“Lyrik-Dichtung)					relation to the word
					 →  		“Schrifttum / literature”

 The uneasiness	    Lyrik				  (which Heine
 the progress therein				uses…)

Tension between Lyrik = Dichtung

Questions	Lyric Poetry
“Problems of Poetry”

246.2	We live in a brightly lit time, a time that illustrates everything; lyric poetry 
has a cosmopolitan trait: “Felice notte!” our so beneficially contradictory god poetizes. Benn…

246.3	_______

The secret marriage the word contracts in the poem with the real and the true is called 
“wild” mainly by those who do not want to forgo their lushly comfortable, well-guarded 
culture-harem and — especially — the eunuchal services that come with it. (Poetry 
certainly does not threaten this seraglio with any kind of abduction)

246.3  The — oh so wordily lamented — loss of tradition: the legitimism 
of those who “legitimize” themselves everywhere, so as not to have to justify 
themselves to themselves.

§ cf. https://poethead.wordpress.com/2019/02/02/microliths-240-241-by-paul-celan/