TO PAUL CELAN
In July, 2020, I was delighted to win 2nd prize in the Welsh Poetry Competition in July 2020. Here are some details about it.
My poem was called To Paul Celan; it was a tribute to a poet capable of linguistic gymnastics and yet many people have never heard of him. Paul Antschel [ he changed his surname] was born in Romania in 1927 to a German-speaking Jewish family. He was a linguist of six languages who was haunted by the Holocaust and the fact he was writing in the language of his mother’s murderers. It fractured his soul. I discovered his amazing, tortuous words when I was studying in the library of St. John’s College, Oxford. Celan’s words confused, intrigued and finally blew me away. I can’t equal his poetic gymnastics but I tried to capture his essence in my poem. I sent the poem to John Felstiner, Professor Emeritus of English at Stanford University many years ago and he wrote to me to say ‘ I’m moved and much struck by the depth and feeling in your poem, your dwelling with and within the voice of Paul Celan. Your poem is very impressive. It’s among the most genuine I’ve seen that deals with Celan.’ I treasure that letter.
A poetry anthology is being published in the autumn and will include all the poetry winners over the last five years. More details will follow.