If you are writing a literary analysis on Paul Celan and his lyric poetry, consider these facts below:
- Paul Celan was a German-speaking Romanian of Jewish descent whose original last name of “Ancel” was altered into “Celan” for his pen name. After studying medicine in Paris he returned to Romania right as the Second World War took hold. During this time he worked in a labor camp while both of his parents were killed in a concentration camp. He escaped and lived in Vienna and Bucharest before he moved back to Paris. Familiar with six languages and fluent in three of them, he learned German and studied literature after the war. This skill-set enabled him to earn money as a translator. During his work as a translator he translated the works of such people as Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost.
- The poet lived in France but wrote his poems in German. The first collection of poems was published in 1948 in Vienna and the second, in 1952. Both collections brought a great deal of popularity to the poet whose work captured the dangerous union between visceral human memories, sensual music, and intoxicating stanzas. Perhaps one of the poems for which he is most well-known is that of “Death Fugue” which is a sonic and dactylic poem spoken by concentration camp inmates.
- The poet is well regarded for his writing in German, which was his mother tongue, but was also the language of the people responsible for shooting and killing his mother. As a survivor living in France, the feelings that the poet harbored of estrangement from German was what influenced his creation of his own version of the language, a dismantled and re-welded version. It is with this transformation of language that he wrote dark poems which explored the experiences he lived.
- The poet has received multiple accolades for his work including the 1958 reception of the Bremen Prize for his German literature contributions and the 1960 reception of the Georg Buchner Prize. In spite of his success, the poet suffered heavily from depression his entire life and in 1970 took his own life.
- In 1942, Paul had gone into hiding even though his two parents decided to remain at home and risk being found by the Nazis. Leaving his parents alone, he temporarily escaped being caught by the Nazis and did escape the horrors of the same concentration camp where his parents were deported and later executed.
- The poet has unarguable linguistic difficulties which actually posed a challenge for translators. The German language created by the poet is distant from the classical German language of old literature and that of the modern spoken German today. In fact the poet often created his own vocabulary, something more easily done in German where the prefixes and postfixes of the language and the very literal vocabulary in existence, technical and often based on Greek and Latin roots. The basis of the German language in this matter allowed the new composites to form multiple layers similar to commonly heard expressions. The phrase “hauchdunn” in German means “paper thin” which is a phrase already commonly used, but a creation used by the poet is that of “rauchdunn” which is “smoke thin”.
- The word “beamwind” contained in the work of the artist is a word meant to express a powerful cleaning of poetry, a cleaning which gets ride of any false claims made by people who are faking their experiences. This term is what gave rise to another similar word, that of “noem” which is meant to be a compilation of “not” and “poem”, something which expresses those poems which are not actually poems or at least the content of which is not real. As part of this, the poet creates a pun which is not translatable, that of “meingedicht”. “Mein” is “my” and “gedicht” is “poem” in German, and from this, the term “meineid” which is a false oath and “meinung” which is a personal opinion. The poetry of the writer thus creates the term “beamwind” as a geological term to refer to the wind based erosion of the false stories of others.
- The poet was dissatisfied with the modern poets of the time, and he published his “widerrufe” as a way of disavowing the poets of tradition, those poets whom he did not approve of. It is because of this that he has been deemed a language poet because of the way in which he uses his languages to shape his thoughts, especially in the poem entitled “Wordcaves”.
- His poem “Wordcaves” is a poem which serves to tell the reader how the poet wants to be defined and read. It tells the reader how the poet moved from surrealist writing styles and focused solely on language as a way to chart reality and to say complex things which are challenging to hear in a contemporary fashion. The poems used to make this point fail to conform to the traditionally recognizable modes of poetry such as symbolism and rhyme and avoid the popularly accepted poetic markers that so many people learn as a means of recognizing poetry. It is because of this that the poet’s work evolved in a processual fashion and not a procedural fashion. In the poem “Wordcaves” the poet suggests that his work of poetry must present the words themselves as a cave, with internal complexities and crevasses. He uses words which paint pictures of prehistoric scenes, so as to afford a multitude of perspectives to his work.
- Rather than focus on the creation of poems which are entertaining, use rhythmic patterns, celebrate minor pleasures and humanity, and use eloquent language, this poet uses carefully constructed stanzas to demonstrate the sadness of life, to offer nostalgia and retrospection. The poetry crafted by the poet celebrate all manner of topics by way of direct language and metaphysical imagery. Using directness and shortness, the readers gain a sense of intricate imagery tied with deep meaning. The use of direct language allows the poet to display individualist personalities of his works.