Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Susanne Dubroff
Dear Editor,

I enjoyed your February issue very much, especially the "Valentines." But I have to tell you I was very unhappy with "Number Me Among the Almonds," by Clive James. To call Celan's "Todesfuge" a love song is an outrage. James suggests "it is perhaps impertinent" to complain about Celan's "self-absorption" in his poems, given his traumatic personal and family history. I regret that James didn't heed his self-criticism, and I really don't see Celan's poems as being any more self-absorbed than most other poems.

I still remember how deeply moved and grateful I was to Seamus Heaney when, at one of his farewell lectures at Harvard, he responded to another academic's reference to the great literary merit in the silences incorporated into Celan's poems. Heaney rose to say, ever so gently, that the silences in Celan's poems were not contrived but were an involuntary expression of the poet's anguish.

Hanover, New Hampshire

Originally Published: October 27, 2008

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This prose originally appeared in the May 2007 issue of Poetry magazine

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