A Witness to Self
February 3, 2019
In Poetics and Politics of Witnessing, Derrida opens up an entirely new lens with which to view poems and works of art. This lens doesn’t include the need for “witnessing,” which is usually very essential in giving a poem purpose or meaning. Witnessing helps the poem to relate and convey a message that otherwise wouldn’t be able to be conveyed. This leads to the second point, where Derrida also uses many translations for certain words and phrases so as to help make clearer. There are also multiple lines where he admits that it is untranslatable – showing how there is a lost connection in communicating through different languages. This only further makes “witnessing” impossible to anyone but the poet himself.
Derrida also gives insight into the idiom used by Krieger, “sealing while (by, through) unsealing itself as a poetic text.” Seeing as how the idiom in untranslatable into proper English, it gives insight into how to understand Celan. This can be understood through the connection that is lost in understanding different languages, leading to the fact that there are endless possibilities to translate what have been lost through division of language.. There are parts in his poems where there are many possible intended meanings.
“It is difficult not to think of also referring to according to an essential reference, to dates and events, to the existence or the experience of Celan. These “things” that are not only “words”: the poet is the only one who can bear witness to them, but he does not name them in the poem. The possibility of a secret always remains open, and this reserve inexhaustible. That is more than ever so in the poetry of Celan, who never ceased encrypting (sealing, unsealing) these references.” 
By frequently using experiences that are unique to himself and occasionally others close to him, it can be harder to decipher the meaning in his texts because no one else was there to see it. In reading Celan’s poem Stehen (To Stand), I noticed a couple of parts especially stuck out in regards to Derrida’s interpretation of Celan and his poems. This is a very short poem (only 3 stanzas), but each stanza carries significant meaning and helped me to better understand Celan. The first stanza starts with
“To Stand, in the shadow
of a scar in the air.” 
This poem starts by making the reader visualize exactly what is going on here, as this is most likely a metaphor for something that only Celan is aware of, which again brings it back to being unable to bear witness. The second stanza continues this point, as it goes
The second stanza here is much more explicit in it’s reference to bearing witness or lack thereof. This gives a notion of standing by oneself, and having no one to stand by you or being able to understand you. I think that this stanza here is perhaps the most helpful at assisting in understanding Derrida’s point. The poem concludes with
“With all that has room within it,
This for me was the hardest part of the poem to understand, even while using Derrida as a guide. However, the last part of the stanza, “even without language” refers back to the point of some understanding being lost through translating from language to language. Witnessing and language were Derrida’s two main points, and they are both addressed here in this poem. Derrida proves that in the case of poetry, and here exemplified in the work of Celan, witnessing and language aren’t relevant in understanding the meaning.
Celan, Paul. Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan. Translated by John Felstiner. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2001.
Derrida, Jacques. “Poetics and Politics of Witnessing.” In Sovereignties
in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan, edited by Thomas Dutoit and Outi
Pasanen, 65–96. New York: Fordham
University Press, 2005.
 Jacques Derrida, “Poetics and Politics of Witnessing,” in Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan, ed. Thomas Dutroit and Outi Pasanen (New York: Forham University Press, 2005), 67
 Derrida, 67
 Paul Celan, Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan, 237.
 Celan, 237
 Celan, 237