“And the too much of my speaking:
heaped up round the little
crystal dressed in the style of your silence.”
— Below, Paul Celan
Thus far along a new undertaking of multiple jobs, children, myriad priorities always somehow unsatisfied, intentions set and never attained, a singular lesson has by this writer been learned:
The capacity to write is not, as I had once both wished and believed, innate.
I have abandoned stillness and silence. I have walked away from discipline and language. I have allowed need and chaos to become my most steady companions. And these companions, though entertaining and filled with numberless distractions, eventually serve but one purpose, and that purpose is the destruction, the isolation of the creative impulse.
Verbosity, sexuality, work that drains as it fills, the Regime and its sad resistance, viruses, the claustrophobia of movement restricted and information reduced to primordial fire, uncontrolled and toxic, visible but murky – how does one explore the core of creation within such confines and conditions? More importantly, is the question itself an absurd indulgence?
Is the poet relevant during wartime? Is the impulse to create, whether the creation is a child, a painting, a revolution (the two can be, and at their best they are, the same), a book, a thin stream of words on a blog – is the drive itself a form of denial and deception? Children in warehouses under a hot Texas sun, ships filled with sickness, a planet heaving with heat and storm and silenced birdsong, the short & lovely dream of democracy waking to the nightmare of looming dictatorship… and every person has his say, his tweet, his post. But the math is all wrong. The cacophonous song adds up to a strange nothingness, as if every voice has grown, grown, grown, and then been multiplied by zero.
Although my books by Paul Celan remain usually safe and untouched behind glass, not a day goes by I don’t think of him, sometimes often, and especially now. For all the aggressive genius of those who continued, like Whitman, to grant to Life, in all its brutal Forms, an assent and acceptance, the pain of Celan’s silence lives with me as both truth and minder.
Sometimes genius is not enough. For the rest of us, sometimes discipline is not enough, nor dedication nor, terribly, even love. As witness and participant, Celan’s voice was stripped from him like the shedding of burned skin.
During these days of slaughters unremarked, screaming and myopic panic, and the isolation of living constantly among crowds increasing daily in nonsensical volume, I wonder at the nature of the poet’s final silence.
I find myself wishing for him, even in death, that there was a flash of the purest peace before the descent. These nights, I find myself wishing this for all of us. Somewhere, somewhere, the stillpoint might someday steady us.
Prayers grow dim in thickening noise.