Bearing Witness

The poet, Paul Celan, was described by his biographer John Felstiner, as a poet who wrote brilliantly about destruction, the Holocaust in Celan’s case. He had used poetry, the biographer said, to create “a language for the unsayable.”

Dr. Felstiner thought that the poet may have felt, at the time he (Celan) went into the Seine river, that after all those years of being life’s witness to history, that he may have felt in the end, that no one was bearing witness to him. Celan had said once, “No one witnesses for the witness.”

I think bloggers make good witnesses. Today, I shall try to bear witness to some who bear witness in unique ways. I’ll begin with a WP blogger Amberfirerinus: she’s on the West Coast of USA and needs a shout out today. Meander (don’t know what US state she is from) who bears witness to those who are sometimes invisible. Sanityfound , from South Africa, who takes time and effort to witness things we might overlook or have forgotten–her post ‘How Far Have We Really Come” is a good example. And, razzbuffnik from Australia, who manages to celebrate everyone in his past and present with childlike delight and is writing an on-line book. Maybelle from Tennessee who teaches women on the margins of life how to write their own stories as well as tell a few of her own.

And, I’ll end with Paul Celan. He is sometimes difficult to understand but when you do your knees shake and you have to sit down. He witnessed those who did not think they were seen even by God. I think in the following poem, he even witnessed the absence of God, but I’m not sure. All I know is: How sad that he may have felt invisible himself. ( He mentions a rose in the poem, “No- One’s-Rose” and I tried to find a photo of a rose for this post from my collection–but none seem to fit this poem. But, my purple dahlias with the white tips came closer. Don’t know…it just seemed important to try and get it right.)


by Paul Celan

No one kneads us again out of earth and clay,

no one incants our dust.

No one.

Blessed art thou, No One.

In thy sight would

we bloom.

In thy


A Nothing

we were, are now, and ever

shall be, blooming:

the Nothing-, the



our pistil soul-bright,

our stamen heaven-waste,

our corona red

from the purpleword we sang

over, O over

the thorn.

(SELECTED POEMS AND PROSE OF PAUL CELAN translated by John Felstiner. Norton Press)


6 comments on “Bearing Witness”

  1. How strange that I started writing a post similar to this just last night albeit still in the making as I believe I passed out with my head on the keyboard drooling away in snoring slumber. So often people feel that they are not heard, so often they do not realise just how inspiring they are to the rest of the world, this is one of my missions as alien on earth :)

    Firstly (or secondly) I love the photo, you caught the dahlias perfectly, your focal point brings in the deeper colours blending them visually in their splendour!

    What a sad poem beautifully said, I feel it talks of the frustration we can often feel when we are trying to be heard on something that we feel is of great importance… perhaps similar to a child trying to explain an idea or thought to an adult only to be laughed at and ignored… I am off to go read more of him, he has a distinctive style that I enjoy!

    Thanks again for sharing, great post and wonderful thoughts as always!

  2. Now, sanity, I simply love that analogy to a child trying to explain an idea or thought to an adult only to be laughed at and ignored! I would never have thought of it yet, as soon as I read it, I said, “Yes, it is like that.”


  3. oooh thank you so much for this! i have gone to visit the others who you speak about in this post. i am very glad i have found you here in the cyberworld…i am beginning to feel very much at home.

  4. Thanks for stopping by. Your images show a great eye and I really enjoy your combinations of image and thought. Good stuff.

  5. “How sad that he may have felt invisible himself”

    Sounds like he needed a friend with some happy pills.

    All joking aside, experience can crush people to such an extent that they never truely get up again. Or it can twist and cripple them so they don’t see beauty anymore.

    Every now and again when I see some dirty old homeless drunk begging for money for booze, I go and buy them a beer and give it to them. Who knows what brought them to where they are?

  6. Razz, Did I ever thank you for that beer and spare change?
    I don’t think you’ll ever break but I’m not surprised to hear that you have compassion for those of us who do.

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