Meridians: the poem as a place of encounter in Paul Celan and J. H. Prynne

Nicola Thomas


In his 1960 Büchner Prize acceptance speech, the poet Paul Celan used a series of spatial metaphors to assess the various ways in which the poem enables literary ‘encounters’. Celan’s speech is full of reflections on how language shapes relationships of distance and proximity, crystallised in the speech’s concluding image of poetic language as a ‘meridian’ which serves both as a measure of distance and a marker of connection. This article compares treatments of the motif of the poem as a place of encounter in the work of Celan himself and his near-contemporary, the British poet J. H. Prynne. Although both poets frequently present the poetic text as a space of encounters, they also manipulate the connections and ruptures which poetry affects. Both can be seen as seeking proximity through communication while also conceding the inevitability of distance in intersubjective relations.


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DOI: 10.14324/111.2057-2212.023


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