Breathturn Into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry of Paul Celan

Wednesday, March 18, 2015, 7:00 pm
Image of Breathturn Into Homestead book cover
Poet-translator Pierre Joris and multimedia artist Nicole Peyrafitte perform works by Paul Celan, one of the greatest German-language poets of the 20th century, who created brilliant works of pure musicality and striking imagery in tension with the haunting memories of his life as a Romanian Jew during the Holocaust. Breathturn into Timestead (Macmillan) gathers the five final volumes of his life’s work in a bilingual edition, translated and with commentary by Joris. Free.
City Lights Books, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco
The Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives, City Lights Books
City Lights Books
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Breathturn Into Timestead

This collection displays a mature writer at the height of his talents, following what Celan himself called the “turn” (die “Wende”) of his work away from the lush surreal metaphors of his earlier verse. Given “the sinister events in its memory,” Celan wrote, the language of poetry has to become “more sober, more factual ... ‘grayer.’” He abandoned the richer music of lyric poems, paring his compositions down to increase the accuracy of the language that now “does not transfigure or render ‘poetical’; it names, it posits, it tries to measure the area of the given and the possible.” In his need for an inhabitable post-Holocaust world that held the memory and anguish of that history, Celan experimented with a bold new poetics.

Pierre Joris

Pierre Joris is the author of some 50 books, including poetry, essays, translations and anthologies. Recent publications include Meditations on the Stations of Mansur al-Hallaj and the anthology Poems for the Millennium Volume 4: The University of California Book of North African Literature. In 2005 he received the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation for his translation of Celan’s Lichtzwang/Lightduress.

Nicole Peyrafitte

Nicole Peyrafitte is a multidisciplinary artist whose videos, paintings, writings, singing and cooking are often integrated into multimedia stagings. Her rich, multitextured and layered work draws on her eclectic background and the experiences of shaping identity across two continents and four languages. The work has been presented and/or performed in such venues as the Metropolitan Museum, Walker Art Center, University of Bordeaux, Birbeck College at University of London, Poets House NYC, The Poetry Project NYC, Cave Poesie Toulouse, France, Wayne State University, Naropa University and more.

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