The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Corona” is a short lyric poem about the difficulty of loving, honestly and truly, for two people who have experienced the catastrophes of World War II and the Holocaust. The memory of disaster and the busy pressure of the time period immediately after the war affect the private life of the two lovers and shape the tone of this love poem.

A corona is a halo or a ring of bright light around the object that obscures or blocks a source of light in an event such as an eclipse. In this poem, love is in eclipse, but the corona of light remaining for the lovers is a source of hope in an eerie darkness. An eclipse provides a chance to learn about the sun and the body that obscures it, and “Corona” provides an opportunity to reconsider the nature of love and to learn much about the couple and their dark world. A corona is also a crown, and the poet offers this poem, with its bright ring of light, as a crown to his beloved in praise of their love.

The poem’s eighteen lines fall into three groups of six lines. The opening, arranged in two three-line stanzas, establishes that it is autumn, a season in which one is reminded of mortality, and a Sunday, when the lovers are able to sleep longer and to spend time together. The next six lines form the center of the poem. The couple speak “dark words” while together during an intimate time that they have freed for love.

The final six lines step back from the intimacy of the central...

(The entire section is 525 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Probably the most difficult feature of Celan’s style is his use of concise, surrealistic images. Presented in very few words, these dreamlike images are seductive and disturbing, and seem to halt our reading and call for more attention. In “Corona,” things that are suggested by such images, but never directly stated, have a way of turning out to be central. Critics are fond of saying that Celan’s poems lie in the silences after such compressed images are presented, or in the spaces between the lines where interconnections between images might be traced.

In the first six lines, for example, the temporal setting is presented in dreamlike images in which the usual course of events is transformed, animated and often reversed. Autumn becomes an animal tamely eating its leaf from the poet’s hand, and its return is a familiar domestic ritual. The kernel shelled from nuts in the fall is, oddly, “time,” and it must be nurtured like a child and taught how to walk. In a strange reversal, time decides it is not yet prepared for the world and returns to its protective shell. These concise, surreal images set up an important tension. Autumn returns for its food and life shortens, but the time we need, which lovers might attentively nurture for the sake of love, fatefully and constantly retreats to its hardened shell. Time is running out, but the times remain at odds with love.

The Sunday of late sleep and dream, a time freed for love, is first seen in a mirror whose depths reverse the logic of waking reality. Usually one says that one dreams in sleep, but here sleep occurs within the dream; in that sleep, rather than in waking, the mouth speaks the truth. For Celan, the...

(The entire section is 693 words.)