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The art of translation is useful to a poet because it calls for the practice of the craft in the absence of inspiration for one’s own work.

It is also, in David Young’s view, a way for a poet to carry on a giant conversation with poets of other languages, times, and places.

“When I translate,” says Young, “I inhabit the other poet’s world, however briefly, and sometimes sense that I am tracking the creative process that brought the original poem into being.”


Paul Celan was, by common consent, among the most important poets of the twentieth century. In the second half of that century, he has no rivals, not least because of his surviving the Holocaust and then confronting it through his art. His 1959 collection, Sprachgitter, stands at the very center of his achievement, and it is here presented in its entirety, for the first time in English, by the noted translator David Young, along with a helpful introduction. Even the title of this collection is diffcult to render in translation, but Young’s choice, Language Behind Bars, reflects Celan’s sense of his diffculty, as a Jew living in France, writing in the language of the enemy and trying to reconstitute and resurrect its potential for poetry in the light of its corruption by the Nazis. Readers will value having the German texts on facing pages, in a continuous dialogue with David Young’s searching and scrupulous versions of these diffcult, masterly lyrics.



David Young’s translation of Paul Celan’s volume,
Von Schwelle zu Schwelle (1952) is now available from
Marick Press.

Link to Merick Press


David Young's DU FU: A LIFE IN POETRY was
published by Knopf in early November, 2008.
Below is a link to a radio interview in which he
discusses the book with Eric Tomb:

Click here for radio interview
• Click here for the NPR review of David Young's DU FU •
Click here for Poetry Daily
Click here for Front Porch 10 review
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