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Each is intrinsic (we don't know the exact sequence and we don't need to know it)." Within the genres of prose poetry and vers libre, the poems of Illuminations bear many stylistic distinctions.
Though influenced by the earlier prose poems of Charles Baudelaire, the prose poems differ starkly from Baudelaire's in that they lack prosaic elements such as linear storytelling and transitions.
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I’d agreed I should stop reciting it so much, even though I knew she reused material too, like that time she really did find a needle in a haystack. “Corona” had become a stand-in for actually getting to know a person. I had never memorized a poem before and it occurred to me, after that first read, that his was a poem for committing to memory.
But it was hard to resist; I had no idea “Corona” would compel the way it did. And perhaps it had become a stand-in for being known. Also, I had some time on my hands: I was on hiatus from my waitressing job because I had to temporarily wear an eye-patch. This poem is quite different from his defining works like “Death Fugue”—“he looses his hounds on us and grants us a grave in the air”—or “Ashglory”—“the drowned rutterblade / deep / in the petrified oath.” If you’re not familiar, Celan’s poetry is pretty dark.
From a barely literate sailing instructor to a dude who plays a barrel cactus to a snarky, sober marine biologist to a former Abercrombie & Fitch manager, this poem was carving out a dreamy shared experience outside of normal social time and space for people who would never actually fall in love. We love one another like poppy, like memory we slumber like wine in the sea shells like the sea in the moon’s blood jet. I didn’t write “Corona.” I didn’t translate “Corona.” I performed “Corona.” It allowed me to think I was trying to connect with people, when really, I was giving them something beautiful but impersonal.
Celan himself once described poetry as “a chance meeting in language-time nobody can foresee.” Language Time. After reading every English translation of “Corona” I can find and reciting this poem so many times, I unintentionally recite a slightly altered version of the John Felstiner translation I originally memorized. I didn’t write “Corona.” I didn’t translate “Corona.” I performed “Corona.” It allowed me to think I was trying to connect with people, when really, I was giving them something beautiful but impersonal. Down to daydreaming possibilities of the title’s meaning. Corona: the best beer because their commercials are basically silent.
Apparently, as he learned languages, Rimbaud kept lists of words he wished to use in poems.
Because the poems of Illuminations are so diverse and self-contained, they cover a wide range of themes. This theme permeates the first poem, "Après Le Deluge", and continues throughout many of the poems in the work.