“Your Hair Over the Sea”

A Poem by Paul Celan (Trans., Pierre Joris)

December 10, 2020  By Paul Celan

Your hair too hovers above the sea with the golden juniper.
With it, it turns white, then I dye it stone-blue:
the color of the city where last I was dragged to the south . . .
With ropes they bound me and tied a sail to each one
and spat upon me from foggy mouths and sang:
“O come over the sea!”
But I as a pinnace paint the wings purple
and rattled the breeze to myself and, ere they slept, put to sea.
I was to dye them red, your locks, but loved them stone-blue:
O eyes of the city, where I fell and was dragged southward!
With the golden juniper your hair too hovers above the sea.


Memory Rose into Threshold Speech by Paul Celan, translated from the German by Pierre Joris

Excerpted from Memory Rose into Threshold Speech by Paul Celan, translated from the German by Pierre Joris. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Translation, Introduction, and Commentary copyright © 2020 by Pierre Joris. All rights reserved.

Paul Celan
Paul Celan
Paul Celan (1920-1970) was born in Czernowitz, Bukovina, and is considered the greatest German-language poet of the second half of the twentieth century. He survived the Holocaust and settled in Paris in 1948, where he lived and wrote until his suicide in 1970. His collections include Poppy and Memory and Homestead of Time, but he is best known for his poem "Todesfuge" ("Death Fugue"). 
Pierre Joris has written, edited, and translated more than sixty books, including poetry, essays, and anthologies, including Fox-trails, -tails, & -trots (Poems & Proses); Paul Celan: Microliths They Are, Little Stones (Posthumous prose); Arabia (not so) Deserta and, with Adonis, Conversations in the Pyrenees. Joris is the editor and translator of Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry of Paul Celan. In 2005 he received the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation for his translation of Celan's Lichtzwang/Lightduress.

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