Black Milk Todesfuge the Poetry of Paul Celan

Paul-Celan 1

Paul Celan (/ˈsɛlæn/; 23 November 1920 – c. 20 April 1970) was a German language poet and translator. He was born as Paul Antschel to a Jewish family in Cernăuți (German: Czernowitz), in the then Kingdom of Romania, (now Chernivtsy, Ukraine), and adopted the pseudonym “Paul Celan”. (Celan in Romanian is pronounced Chelàn, and was derived from the syllables of his surname). He became one of the major German-language poets of the post-World War II era.
Celan remained imprisoned in a work-camp until February 1944, when the Red Army’s advance forced the Romanians to abandon the camps, whereupon he returned to Cernăuţi shortly before the Soviets returned. There, he worked briefly as a nurse in the mental hospital. Friends from this period recall Celan expressing immense guilt over his separation from his parents, whom he had tried to convince to go into hiding prior to the deportations, shortly before their death.
A version of Celan’s poem Todesfuge appeared as “Tangoul Morţii” (“Death Tango”) in a Romanian translation of May 1947. Additional remarks were published explaining that the dancing and musical performances evoked in the poem were images of realities of the extermination camp life.
Celan became a French citizen in 1955 and lived in Paris. Celan’s sense of persecution increased after the widow of a friend, the French-German poet Yvan Goll, unjustly accused him of having plagiarised her husband’s work. Celan was awarded the Bremen Literature Prize in 1958 and the Georg Büchner Prize in 1960
Celan committed suicide by drowning in the Seine river in Paris, around April 20, 1970.
The death of his parents and the experience of the Shoah (The Holocaust) are defining forces in Celan’s poetry and his use of language. In his Bremen Prize speech, Celan said of language after Auschwitz that:
Only one thing remained reachable, close and secure amid all losses: language. Yes, language. In spite of everything, it remained secure against loss. But it had to go through its own lack of answers, through terrifying silence, through the thousand darknesses of murderous speech. It went through. It gave me no words for what was happening, but went through it. Went through and could resurface, ‘enriched’ by it all.

An Animated English Translation of Paul Celan’s famous work Todesfuge

Here it is read in the original German by its author Paul Celan

A further English translation where Todesfuge (Death Fuge) is entitled Black Milk

*Editors note: The actual Reading of Paul Celan’s works in original text German together with their English translations starts appx 28 minutes after a lengthy introduction

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Dream – A Poem By Ron Olsen


by Ron Olsen

There were three in the room
Two men and a girl
Standing there
Without expression
Looking back at me
Dressed mostly in black

They were dead
That I knew
But they would not talk
Even while I implored

“Talk to me”

And so one did
The older one
Apparently in charge

“Exorcism 101” he said
As he shut the door in my face


© 2015 Ron Olsen / all rights reserved

Posted in art music poetry Tagged with: ,

Robin Ouzman Hislop, Publisher of Poetry Life and Times and Artvilla’s Poetry Editor

Robin Ouzman Hislop Editor of the 12 year running on line monthly poetry journal Poetry Life and Times. Poetry Life & Times (See its Wikipedia entry at Poetry Life and Times). Previously edited by Sara Russell who is now Editor of the sister paper li Poetry Lifetimes. In 2013 he joined with Dave Jackson Editor/Admin as Co Editor at
He now Edits both Facebook Pages PoetryLifeTimes and as extensions of the Blog Sites at
He’s been previously published in a variety of international magazines, where recent publications include Voices without Borders Volume 1 (USA), Cold Mountain Review, Appalachian University N Carolina, The Poetic Bond II & 111, available at The Poetic Bond and Phoenix Rising from the Ashes a recently published Anthology of Sonnets: Phoenix Rising from the Ashes. Submittals may be sent to or Please refer to our submittal guidelines at either of the sites.

Posted in art music poetry, Robin Ouzman Hislop

Circle – A Poem Of Life By Ron Olsen

by Ron Olsen

Does any of it really matter?
Beyond the golden moment of now?

It seemed so important at the time
Even immortal

A circle with no beginning or end

Protagonist on one side
Antagonist on the other
A story told ten thousand times
Somehow new with each new telling
Never to be forgotten
Leaving onlookers stunned
And silent
Pondering the profound new implications for their lives

Never to be forgotten
Except that it was

Eventually it vanished
And no one remembered
Immortality washed away
By several generations
Of the newest thing
The oh so meaningful
Newest thing

It seemed so important at the time

But as the circle continued to turn
None of the performance held fast
Only the truth of the golden moment
Which was gone as quickly as it had appeared
Until its next appearance

A story told ten thousand times
Somehow new with each new telling

As greatness and nobility continue to exist
Only so long as we remember
Only so long as we have one another
Only so long as we continue to care

Otherwise it dies with us
A phoenix that cannot rise
Without purpose

With no golden moment left
To give us another chance
At now
To care more for one another
Than for the story

And yet

It seemed so important
At the time

© 2015 Ron Olsen / All rights reserved



Ron Olsen is a Los Angeles based essayist and poet.   More of his work can be found here.

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