Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Paul Celan and Amenta

While re-reading Paul Celan’s book of poetry, Lightduress, I was quite taken with the five line poem-- Die lehmigen Opfergüsse/ the loamy offering downpours. This poem, evocative of fall, seems to turn geography upon its head. From its image cluster I intuited that loam, crawling with snails, formed a ceiling and that a fallen blackberry leaf flies against gravity toward heaven. Consequently, I imagined a world where the earth was above, and heaven was below.

This intriguing and somewhat numinous image seemed familiar. Had I heard it before?

At first, I thought the image came from the I Ching but with a little digging I found it in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. In Amenta, the land of the dead, the earth is above and the sky below. Suddenly, the poem opened up and I had a clue in which to begin my explication of the text.

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