Leertext & disorientation

by on Feb.22, 2012

In a class I’m auditing on translating theory, we recently read a Celan poem called The Shofar Place together. The German title of the poem is Die Posaunenstelle, which more literally means The Trombone Place. Someone in class was reminded of the Book of Revelations, particularly the sectioned entitled The Last Trumpet. Trombones are not trumpets, so I am not sure why the link was made (probably because this person thinks about the Bible a lot), but its translation by John Felstiner actually connects it to the shofar:


A ram’s-horn trumpet used by Jews in religious ceremonies and as an ancient battle signal.

The trombone becomes a trumpet becomes a shofar, the horn of a dead animal, in the interstice of translation.


Here is the poem in english:


Deep in the glowing
at torch height,
in the timehole:

hear deep in
with your mouth.


It is interesting to compare it to an earlier translation by Felstiner:

The Shofar Place (1969, published 1976)
(“Posaune” was Martin Luther’s translation of the Biblical word “shofar” into German)

source: http://hearingshofar.blogspot.com/2010/07/paul-celan-and-shofar.html

Look at the pretty German Leertext. Because I don’t speak or read German, I can’t help reading the poem as Leer-text, a text that leers at me. The alive-void that leers and reaches out.

Having read Lucas de Lima’s recent post on the rainbow sloth alongside THE SHOFAR PLACE and Jabes’s book pieces, I feel deeper in my understanding of the void:

If once the book struck me as an intermediary technology between writers, their subjects, readers, and God, I now often get the feeling that these figures orbit the book.  This is to say that I think a book creates and undoes its own material boundaries.

The void of text (the written text prior to the reader, the text prior to being written, prior to thought being) is a full emptiness. Sound can travel through it. It glows. It also has gravity. Lucas, quoted above, sees that it is the center of a galaxy of consciousness.

And it is a star at the brink of imploding into itself. A black hole is a void with gravity. The text resides before the void, before itself, inside a timehole.

All of this orbits around the idea of text as orienting devices or points. My friend Carrie recently spoke to me about the nature of religious icons, and how they used to be the main orientation devices people used for navigating through life, how to orient their behavior, their thoughts.

In a secular world, We are oriented by reality TV:

“This Kate Durbin quote is fun:

‘Reality TV: a brave new world where there are no victims, only co-conspirators. Where everyone is witness, and destiny is public, participatory, sympathetic, savage.’
I’m definitely as fucked up, edited and manipulated as the people on reality tv. Those are my peoples!”
And how do we think about our superstars?
I think “orbit” and especially Raggedy Andy’s “orbit” of super saturating art/life is an interesting way of thinking about an alternative to influence/lineage and all that: “a zone where interesting things happen.” A necropastoral “strange meeting.” -Johannes Goransson
Stars Inextricable now from the productive void of capital. Against which we rub our cell walls and through which we pass as they pass through us. Injected to the point of numbness, eyeballs desensitized.


Fake witness, Reality, TV. Are these totally external/superficial virtualities different from types of texture/art that put orientation in a blender to make a smoothie, or inside of a stomach, or inside a time-warping hole that Leers at the seer, the other. Does Reality have a gaze? Durbin says to watch = to want. Perhaps the tv does not look out. Is that the difference?
What is a leertext? It’s a twisted non-binary where surface and depth combine. Here is why I keep saying the word synesthesia. In the Celan Shofar Place, seeing, hearing, tasting, and feeling are blended or suspended. In the time hole, judgement is in the act of making and being made. The mouth listens into the shofar place, all of space is sucked into the spiraling sound of the ram horn’s emptiness. This operation is opposite to anaesthesia, which this word processor keeps trying to correct synesthesia into. There is no squinting through one eye to make commands or monuments out of the past. Rather, you are called into it. The black milk of Celan’s death fugue pulses through all things. You drink it and it drinks us.

He writes in “The Meridian” of the loneliness of poems: “A poem’s lingerings or longings–a world related to the creature–touch such thoughts.”

The loneliness of trauma too, the guts of history which cannot be preserved. How do we relate to it? Celan sits in the house he plays with his vipers he writes. The aryan lives in the house he plays with his vipers he writes. In the leertext void you are bonded with “the mystery of an encounter” which is an opening of “the other’s ownmost quality speak: its time.” A time without limbs.
Finally, the Notley quote from the Lucas post and the vipers also reminded me of Nathalie Djurberg’s snake claymates.
There is particular one from THE PARADE that is not online, but in which multiple snakes bite themselves and each other like failed Ouroboros.  Aaron, (also quoted above) and I talked today about the self-domestication of the snakes. The woman in this event is not harmed, but she watches as the snakes and snake wounds retreat underground and don personable animal/human masks, which they seem to use to communicate with her. All of them listen in with their mouths, watch her and caress her through their masks, their creaturely leertexts.
4 comments for this entry:
  1. Johannes

    I like the idea of gravity than implodes on itself – something must draw figures into the orbit, but it’s an attraction that often turns inside out.

    Interesting that your model for such a “leer” should in fact be an untranslated word, as if the leer is the poetry that is not “lost in translation”, or I guess which is, yes, “lost in translation” – translation opens up a “leer” in language, an orbit. This might be what Christian Hawkey’s “Ventrakl” is all about – that “hole,” as he puts it, having shot holes in Trakl’s book.

    It’s certainly true of Aase Berg’s Transfer Fat that Joyelle and I have been writing about for some time – a book largely based on various translations (and also full of “holes”), a book that seems to be a moebius strip (or collapsing star).

    Also, I have often thought about Celan’s “black milk” as being on some level about art and its mediumicity; and Djurberg’s show seemed to me immediately to be about this as well. I feel like writing something about this, especially how it pertains to the “poetry of witness,” for which Celan so often serves as an unstable poster-poet.

    Icons seems a key figure here: whether saints, Warhol “superstars” or reality TV-show people (or Kate D!) – they strike me as porous bodies/images. And that’s certainly true of Morrissey, glamour saint of melacholy, whose body Henry Rollins seemed so fixated on making holes in (in the post I posted a while back).

    One thing I would add: that a lot of these instances include a kind of “violence” – whether of translation or figurative or literal. It seems a kind of violence is a key feature of this model. Almost all of Djurberg’s work is incredibly violence (though there seems to be a fine/nonexistent line between spasms, violence, ecstasy etc).


  2. Feng Sun Chen

    Yes, I definitely thought about your Transfer Fat and Joyelle’s review of it, but I haven’t read it yet–so looking forward. There is definitely a link to the Ventrakl and its perforations, and also to All the Garbage of the World Unite, which I am about to teach in my class. I hope you do write about the black milk and mediumicity. I’ve been enjoying your posts on starfuckers and starbodies etc and the movements and spasms—I should have linked the orbit stuff to your post. I think I’ll do that now.

    Lots of things to think about! I’m still parsing out to myself how the word violence is working through all of this as well. More soon. 😀

  3. Feng Sun Chen

    Also I am not sure if the first translation is actually Felstiner. I will confirm this. Maybe it is Pierre Joris (Johannes asked)? There was no name on the photocopy of the poem I got. Anyway I’m going to figure it out.

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