Thinking About Words

Last Wednesday staff from Sport Studies at the University of Canberra met the poet Harry Laing at the Old Cheese Factory at Reidsdale to develop our writing skills as part of the Faculty of Health‘s 2010 Writing Week. I have been thinking about the workshop a good deal since then.

On one of my journeys into the University of Canberra I caught a Book Show discussion of Paul Celan.The program note included the quote “There is nothing in the world for which a poet will give up writing, not even when he is a Jew and the language of his poems is German.” Ramona Koval discussed with Charlotte Ryland the limits and possibilities of language in relation to Celan’s poetic project.

The interview was prompted by the publication of Charlotte’s book Paul Celan’s Encounters with Surrealism: Trauma, Translation and Shared Poetic Space. The Legenda summary of the book is:

Paul Celan (1920-1970), one of the most important and challenging poets in post-war Europe, was also a prolific and highly idiosyncratic translator. His post-Holocaust writing is inextricably linked to the specific experiences that have shaped contemporary European and American identity, and at the same time has its roots in literary, philosophical and scientific traditions that range across continents and centuries – surrealism being a key example. Celan’s early works emerge from a fruitful period for surrealism, and they bear the marks of that style, not least because of the deep affinity he felt with the need to extend the boundaries of expression. In this comparative and intertextual study, Charlotte Ryland shows that this interaction continued throughout Celan’s lifetime, largely through translation of French surrealist poems, and that Celan’s great oeuvre can thus be understood fully only in the light of its interaction with surrealist texts and artworks, which finally gives rise to a wholly new poetics of translation.

I like the idea of a ‘poetics of translation’ and its resonance with developing ideas. I ought to track down the book to learn more about Paul Celan and Charlotte’s account of poetics. This may take me to Jacques Derrida too!

It is surprising where a misty day in Reidsdale can lead you.

Leave a Reply