Paul-Henri Campbell is a German-American author. He is a bilingual author of poetry and prose in English and German. He studied classical philology, with a concentration on ancient Greek, as well as Catholic theology at the National University of Ireland in Maynooth and at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main.
His work has led him on the search for modern-day mythologies. He describes his approach to prose as mythical realism. Campbell’s contributions have been featured and published in German and American literary magazines including Lichtungen, Purnev Literary Magazine, Hessischer Literaturebote, entwürfe, and KGB Magazine.
Campbell was born in 1982 in Boston, Massachusetts to former US-Army officer and a German nurse. He grew up in Massachusetts and moved with his family to Germany, where he completed his final secondary school examinations (Abitur) in Bavaria. Campbell was born with a serious heart condition and carries a pacemaker since the age of 24. He also had a life-threatening brain tumor removed at the Boston Children’s Hospital at age 10, and has been epileptic ever since. Currently, he is preparing a dissertation in Foundational Theology at the Jesuit Seminary, Sankt Georgen, in Frankfurt/Main, Germany.
Works and views
Campbell's narrative work is characterized by the extensive use of tragic irony. Thereby seemingly ordinary characters and storylines work themselves into a dichotomy that can hardly be resolved. Most of these situations arise through conflicts in ambition and expectation.Characteristic of Campbell’s work is the selection of central themes surrounding mankind’s common experiences, such as love.
Ralf Julke, editor of Leipzig's major internet news platform, once wrote a in a critique of the short story collection meinwahnstraße;
“[There are situations] in which it is absolutely unclear whether what is being experienced, actually has anything to do with love. Or if it is an obsession, a glitch in the economy of emotions, or even a delusion. True love? – No. Certainly not. Thematically, a lot of Campbell's narratives could possibly be found in the work of Raymond Carver. Even though in the case of Carver, the stories would not have the consequences which they have here. Because: Campbell's stories decidedly have consequences. They are not only stories of human relationships that are all somehow instable, abysmally filled by voids and depths, insecurities, false bottoms. They also have a strong inclination towards finalizing their catastrophe."
Campbell's poetry is based on modern-day mythologies that are staged in a number of scenic impressions like a sequence of snapshots. In this, he is close to the Symbolist tradition and the poetry of things (German: Dinggedicht). Inspired by Stéphane Mallarmé's poem Un Coup de Dés, Campbell is interested in poetry as language in print, that is: the relationship between poetic language and medium representing them. The characters making up a word thus are to play with the surface of the pages holding them. In this way, Campbell attempts at highlighting the materiality of language (the materiality of the logos) as a significant and constitutive element of poetry. For this reason, his poems are never isolated pieces, but part in a large poetic movement, such as the cycle or a book dedicated to only a single theme. His lyrical themes involve things like the Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am, the A-train of the New York subway system, dildos and speed-dating. In order to avoid creating idle poems, he attempts to conceptualize his lyrical works in a broader scheme. His poetry collection entitled Space Race, a lyrical incarnation of the mythologies surrounding the 20th-century pursuit of the moon, comprises precisely this tactic of conceptualization. The main focus is not on the individual poem, but its compositional place, position, and significance within the entire breath of a publication.
In March 2013, Paul-Henri Campbell has been called onto the editorial board of DAS GEDICHT, one of largest poetry magazines in the German language.