Eliot Cardinaux: Around the Faded Sun

The Bodily Press is proud to announce the release of Eliot Cardinaux’s first full-length collection of poems, Around the Faded Sun, comprised of 59 poems structured in and around a 24-part serial poem within based on the writings of Paul Celan & Osip Mandelstam.



Around the Faded Sun is an homage to the importance Paul Celan & Osip Mandelstam took on for me as a young musician, struggling to revive in myself the will to speak through poetry.

My connection to Celan is immediate and personal in origin, & its historicity can only be applied effectively in relative terms today, from a political vantage point. That is why, I suppose, there’s a mythos that I’m trying to reach for in this book regarding Celan, & Mandelstam, Celan’s poetic “brother” whom he never met. Ingeborg Bachmann, whom Celan knew quite well, as well as René Char, Bei Dao, & Adonis, all of whose poetry speaks to the exiled condition of all poets, also make appearances in the book as dedicatees, as do a few friends & collaborators without whom I never would have followed my artistic practice to where it has continued, in un-arriving, until today.


I recently traveled to Denmark & Germany, & recorded the first two sections of this book with a band of European improvising musicians. We go collectively by the name Our Hearts as Thieves — Asger Thomsen, a bassist from Denmark; Jonas Engel, a saxophonist from Germany; Etienne Nillesen, a percussionist from The Netherlands; & myself, on piano/voice — live at a venue called Loft, in Cologne.

(Video: Portions of a concert we performed back in 2017)

(Bandcamp: An album we released with music from that concert)

These new recordings are now mastered, & we are shopping for labels. The album, when it comes out, will be titled: What the Wildflower Witnessed. This work is difficult. It’s all about passing time, things being out of our control, & dealing in the moment with reality as it comes up through the words.

My goal with the music was to see what happened when I brought this new poetry, much of which is based on Celan & Mandelstam, into an improvising group that works with my poetry as a narrative anchor. I guess it tells the story, in poetic terms, of my interaction with the world through the lens of both history & poetics. Having been thrown into the realm of improvisation & performance, the poetry is transfigured, & thus allows me to witness, in real time, how the poems respond to outside forces & influence, through the veil of noise and sound. This calls me back to reading Osip Mandelstam’s seminal prose work “The Noise of Time,” a phrase which is relevant today amidst an uproar of global panic surrounding the outbreak of COVID-19, the most recent & immediate among the many crises we are facing as a species, & as a planet. I think the band has succeeded in opening up a new window onto what has been an ongoing process for me, and I have started responding in my poetry since, to these ideas & the experience of performing these poems with Jonas, Asger, & Etienne in Germany.

The poems in Around the Faded Sun also find their way into solo performances, and performances in other formats, different groups, and in different settings.

Note: this whole practice stems in large part for me, from Pierre Joris’s work translating Celan, and his and many others’ scholarship surrounding Celan, as well as Mandelstam, including an array poets who have both written about & translated such difficult content with respect and courage, including Jerome Rothenberg, Clarence Brown, W.S. Merwin, John Felstiner, Michael Hamburg, Franz Wright, Kevin M. F. Platt, & Charles Bernstein.

In effect, these are my own “reading stations in the late word,”* finding a clearing in which to speak, reading into and out of the later poetry of Paul Celan, always as if for the first time.

-Eliot Cardinaux

*”Lesestationen im Spätwort,” a line by Paul Celan, from one of the poems in his later collection Lichtzwang, or Lightduress. For a reading of that line, & an informed commentary, I recommend the introduction to Pierre Joris’ English translation of Paul Celan’s last 6 poetry collections, Paul Celan: Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry. The translations themselves are excellent.

-Eliot Cardinaux

Purchase the paperback: AROUND THE FADED SUN

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