"A poem can be a message in a bottle, sent out in the–not always hopeful–belief that, somewhere and sometime, it could wash up on land.”
A LEAF, treeless for Bertolt Brecht:
(trans by Michael Hamburger)
when a conversation
is almost a crime
because it includes
so much made explicit?'
To a Brother in Asia
the self- transfigured
a rapid fire blossoms
just surely as peace,
a handful of rice
dies away as your friend.
During WW2 he was forced into the Romanian ghetto where he translated Shakespeare and continued to write poetry. In 1942, the Nazis rounded up ghetto inhabitants and sent them to concentration camps. His parents were deported to a concentration camp where his mother was shot and his father most likely died of typhus. Celan worked in a Nazi labor camp for 18 months before escaping when the Red Army advanced into Romania. An uncle died in Birkenau Concentration camp.
His poetry speaks of the tyranny and horror of the war and postwar years. While much of his poetry speaks profoundly of the Holocaust and the death of his parents and family members, Celan was not just a Holocaust poet.
Celan took his own life in April 1970 in the Seine River in Paris.
John McGregor who produced an ABC radio feature on Paul Celan wrote of Paul Celan's poetry: