For Shulamith

– In the Hütte, in the beautiful hair, in the garden, in the heart, in the hard, in the half – “This is compulsion,” I tell myself. But I instantly make the realization that the best poetry around is the poetry that dares to aspirate its consonants. The diacritic for aspiration in the phonetic alphabet is the superscript "h", [ʰ]. Language in vacuum. I continue with my imaginary reading. In t[ʰ]e [ʰ]ouse „dein goldenes Haar Margarete, dein aschenes Haar Sulamith“. Obviously Celan knew what he was doing – „der Tod ist ein Meister.” – “he grants us a grave in the air”. In the [ʰ]air the breath is bereaved. When Eliza tried to learn aspiration she couldn’t say: "In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen.” This English Shulamith spoke no Hebrew. Cruel consonants are hard to caress. Hark! Fight the snakes with your hair. Entangle their tails with your string, and drink, and drink, and then ding. The bell tolls for der Tod. Aspire „der Tod“, Shulamith, louder and more, and haunt, and let your hurricane happen – in dein aschenes Haar – Etch your Hs, imprint them on skin and let them burn it. It burns. The “Ah,” loses its first born. The H remains and it haunts.


Camelia said…
The formalists strike again to my utter pleasure. I've gathered some of the comments sent to me by email by Bent and Charles, so that others may relish seeing where texts can take us - to the heights of despair, imagination, and delight.

Charles said: "Consider also how Keats, a Cockney, was criticised for not allowing for aspiration in the voicing of his verse: as if of 'emlock i 'ad drunk: My art aitches?

And Sulamith cannot pronounce the sibboleth?

dein aschenes Haar: I've admired this phrase and the absence of aspirated H in the word that names the letter (at least in French) and the two aas after the H.... Somewhere ('eteroglyphics, p'raps?) I note that Celan chose by anagram a name that is unvoicable in French or German (though it's fine in Romanian...). How do you SAY Celan?

Bent said of Celan by way of quoting Adam Thirwell: "He was a connoisseur of self-consciousness. Even his name is fashioned. Originally Paul Antschel, in Bucharest he acquired a Romanian spelling, Ancel, from which he formed the anagram Celan. With emigré fastidiousness, in Paris he insisted on a French pronunciation - 'Selon', masking the Bukovinan 'Chelan'. The name is a construct. It marks a loss. He signed one letter in three languages: Russian, bastardised Latin and German: 'Pavel Lvovitsch Tselan/Russki poët in partibus nemetskich infidelium/'s ist nur ein Jud-' - 'Paul, son of Leo, Tselan/Russian poet in the territory of German infidels/'tis but a Jew-' - humorous and maudlin, heartfelt and untrue."

Charles said: "I didn't know that he [Celan] insisted on Selon: one must ask 'according to whom?', but this still misses the further point, the allusion to the follower of St. Francis (PC made a pilgrimage to Assisi) Thomas di Celano....

Bent said: "Forsooth, a follower of Francis, but also a follower of the sibilant Sybilla:

'Dies irae, dies illa!
Solvet saeclum in favilla,
Teste David cum Sybilla.'"

And I said: "the initial consonant+vowel in Romanian pronunciation of Celan is similar to that of the English pronunciation of the word chest..."

Get it off your chests fellas, let the oracle speak the shiboleth, the Latin, Cockney, German, and Romanian style. Meanwhile go and watch My Fair Lady again. While she gets H (professor [ʰ]iggins), or else should I say she gets the H right in the end, which is deemed sublimely beautiful by all the males present in the film, she is not so good at handling the consequences of having ensnared H through aspiration. His last line in the musical is not suggestive of a properly aspirated romantic demand: 'hand me thy hand,' but of a more urgent and pressing, domestic imperative: 'hand me the goddamned slippers'. And she does, without a word. Handsome plot, I'd say, but I would have preferred one in which the potential handling of hands would have unleashed a hell of a hurricane. We would all have gotten so lost in the aff[ʰ]air.
Bent said…
Let's not [ʰ]entirely forget George Bern[ʰ]ard S[ʰ]aw, who wrote in the postscript to Pygmalion:

"Almost immediately after Eliza is stung into proclaiming her considered determination not to marry Higgins, she mentions the fact that young Mr. Frederick Eynsford Hill is pouring out his love for her daily through the post. Now Freddy is young, practically twenty years younger than Higgins: he is a gentleman (or, as Eliza would qualify him, a toff), and speaks like one; he is nicely dressed, is treated by the Colonel as an equal, loves her unaffectedly, and is not her master, nor ever likely to dominate her in spite of his advantage of social standing. Eliza has no use for the foolish romantic tradition that all women love to be mastered, if not actually bullied and beaten. 'When you go to women,' says Nietzsche, 'take your whip with you.' Sensible despots have never confined that precaution to women: they have taken their whips with them when they have dealt with men, and been slavishly idealized by the men over whom they have flourished the whip much more than by women."

Shaw has a point, here. Exchanging Hill for Higgins doesn't change much: these toffs are no match for Eliza who at the drop of an [ʰ]at (or, as the Cockneys say, 'the toss of a titfer') is likely to ex[ʰ]ort them ever so lovingly to "move their bloomin' arses" and get out of her way. Eliza is going places!
Camelia said…
Bent hits the spot. What else is new? But stop bashing my Nietzsche. I know, I know, you CAN be gay and a fascist, but, when Nietzsche speaks of whips he's thinking of something else: his ascension to the (Ascot) society of stylish grand ladies. Had you read Nietzsche propely you would have noticed that, as Norman Nelson also observed, when Nietzsche did go to the woman with a whip in his hand, he handed it over to her. Check out this picture of Nietzsche and Paul Ree pulling a wagon carrying the whip-wielding Lou Andreas-Salome [''Who Is That Man Posing as Richard Foreman?,'' March 26].

And where the f is Søren? I know Australia is far away, but what can be more entertaining than this?
Camelia said…
I forgot to link to the Nietzsche picture. Here it is.
Bent said…
Lovely: Gay, Fascist, Masochist - I like him more and more with every passing day...
Camelia said…
Ok, I get your point about Nietzsche. Though what I like about him is the fact that he was not a stranger to women's predicaments where marriage is concerned. He so wanted that Salome person, but at least he had the brains and commonsense to realize that she was much smarter than that in spite of her time. Where their time is concerned, however, I find it much more liberating that women would marry for money rather than love. Now, some people call the latter progress - Christ, what happend to the world? Last I've heard, women's lib also means freeing oneself from marriage contracts, thank god. For a change, I'd like to see the exchange rates go up for the Elizas of the world. Perhaps we can start counting to 4 - it shouldn't be too difficult. Then the Shulamites can join in by creating lists for men who want to keep it simple: mark the spot with an X indicating their favorite option as to what they want from women: 1. to leave them alone, 2. to fuck them good; 3. to give them the whole package (well, marriage excluded); 4. none of the above, meaning something else perhaps and therefore more interesting. It would make the whole courtship game much more efficient (esp. 2), easier to forget about (esp. 1), more hasseling, though ok to live with (esp. 3) and seductively more challenging (esp. 4). Will that cover it? Simple and as clear as crystal.

Popular Posts