by Paul Celan

not on my lips look for your mouth,
not in front of the gate for the stranger,
not in the eye for the tear.

seven nights higher red makes for red,
seven hearts deeper the hand knocks on the gate,
seven roses later plashes the fountain.

Paul Celan, born in Romania to a Jewish family in 1920, grew to become a poet and a gifted translator of poetry. Although a polyglot, he wrote his poems in German, specifically in the personal German of his mother’s house. His relationship to the language inevitably changed after he lost his family in the Holocaust. He said, “There is nothing on earth that can prevent a poet from writing, not even the fact that he’s Jewish and German is the language of his poems.” His poems demonstrate the malleability and inventiveness of language with a profound density and courage.

Want to read more by and about Paul Celan?
Famous Poets and Poems
The Poetry Foundation

4 thoughts on “FRIDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: Paul Celan

  1. So sad and so beautiful. His story, his continuing to write. Heartbreakingly beautiful. I do love how poets turn suffering into art.


    • Isn’t it? He drowned himself in the Seine when he was only 50. I left that part out because I figured mentioning the Holocaust was depressing enough without adding that to the bio.


  2. Oh, but the tortured story of a poet’s life always makes their poetry that much sweeter. For me, the suffering in my life makes sense when I realize it gives me what to write about. Has there ever been a poet who was not a tortured soul?


  3. Finding the poetry in the suffering of the world and of the self, is a release IN itself. That someone may read it or hear it and UNDERSTAND, is a gift from God.
    ‘seven nights higher red makes for red-
    seven hearts deeper the hand knocks on the gate’
    I read this and understand.


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