Sunday, January 01, 2006

frohes neues

Had a quiet new year’s eve. Dinner with my mother, then out on the street at midnight to watch the neighborhood light up. Anyone can set off fireworks in Germany. Like in China, just go into the market and buy a bag full. I’ll watch, but I won’t do it. I wasn’t feeling well yesterday and avoided the champagne our neighbors were passing around, so the glass I pretended to nurse was freezing my hand off. Miles was disturbed by the noise and stench of smoke, and afraid because about three years ago a firecracker set a house on fire not far away, so we went back in and I put him to bed. The streets, as usual for new year's day, are a mess of exploded paper this morning.

I was up first this morning and tried translating some Paul Celan poems from “Die Hand voller Stunden.” It went fine, though in a couple places there was a word I didn’t know, and in one of the poems, “Im Memoriam Paul Eluard,” the grammar was difficult. I love Celan, but he’s a poet whose story you need to know to appreciate the poems, some of which would fail without context and a familiarity with his overall work. I love his short poems especially, his symbols, his despair.

On a more hopeful note, here’s a winter poem I wrote a year or so ago. (It was in Worm.)

Snow Path

New year’s litter of colored paper,
nothing will be remembered right.
Bare branches splay
against the sky like mindless scribble.

The best season is silence.
Wool and cross-stitch of frost,
snow --

in their fretwork,
every parting lip is closed.

Fir-circled field,
untrodden path,
this morning I’m first to find it.

I’ve forgotten what I wished for;
perhaps it has come quietly.


Bob Hoeppner said...

>a mess of exploded paper

I liked that.

Is there a particular translation of Celan (besides your own) that you particularly like? Or one you don't? I have Hamburger, Joris, and Popov/McHugh translations. I also like Celan: he's quirky, which I like about him.

I also like Snow Path. Your first stanza reminded me of the first stanza of a poem I just wrote a few weeks ago, called Hate Mate

A woman of loose morsels
told me Look at those branches,
they look just like scratches in the snow,
and I saw for the first time the twisted
scribbling that is Winter Mountain.

but I didn't rip you off, I promise! It was polygenesis!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah,

Happy New Year! Your description of New Year's Eve reminded me of your poem and then you were kind enough to include it.

Bob Hoeppner,

Are you Swiss? Your name sounds it. Is this permissible, Sarah? Cross chatting on a blog?
Anyhow, I like the "loose morsels", Bob.


Bob Hoeppner said...

I'm German. My father's side is from around Katherinenburg, and my mom's side from Alsace-Lorraine. And Johanna, if you want to chat more directly, see me at or Do that, and I'll divulge a link to the whole poem. Glad you like the "loose morsels"!

SarahJane said...

Hi Bob -
I liked your morsels, too.
As to Celan, I have the Felstiner translations, which I got this past October. I need to try another, maybe Hamburger? The weird thing about Felstiner is he leaves some German words untranslated, which is fine with me but I imagine it's discombobulating for someone who doesn't speak German.

Hi Johanna! Happy new year! Please, cross-chat all you like.

michi said...

translating celan, sounds very interesting. he is one of my favourite poets. are you publishing the translations in a book or are you just doing a few poems? i hope i can read them somewhere some day.

all the best,

SarahJane said...

I was trying out the translation to see if I could do it. I enjoyed the exercise - it wasn't that easy despite Celan's relative brevity. Glad to know you like him, too. He's radiant!

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