Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 7 February 2011

  • [Two untitled poems]

    [untitled 1]

    To return to the poplar its weight, Pour rendre son poids au peuplier,
    I would have to il faudrait
    reject narrative’s convulsed form. que je repousse la figure convulsée du récit.
    To accomplish Pour accomplir
    a literary work, une œuvre littéraire,
    I would have to oust the stage of review il me faudrait évincer le temps du compte rendu
    without sans
    worsening the rest of it. exaspérer le reste.
    Meanwhile, En attendant,
    all is impossible to me and language exploits the fact. tout m’est impossible et le verbe en abuse.

    [untitled 2]

    The landscape is fixed. It is that powdery Le paysage est arrêté. Il est cet attelage
    yoke poudreux
    which bogs down in its whiteness. qui s’enlise dans sa blancheur.
    Its axles Ses essieux
    sink deep in the despotic innocence s’enfoncent dans l’innocence despotique
    of the snow. de la neige.
    Though not quite lost, we start to dread Sans être égarés, nous commençons à redouter
    nowhere, and especially le nulle part, et surtout
    that inclement silence ce silence inclément
    which thunders against the affront of all travel. qui tonne contre l’affront de tout voyage.

    by François Jacqmin

    Copyright © François Jacqmin. Translation copyright © Philip Mosley, 2010.

    These two untitled poems are taken from The Book of the Snow by François Jacqmin, translated by Philip Mosley, with an introduction by Clive Scott (Arc ‘Visible Poets’ translation series No. 28), and published by Arc Publications.

    Notes courtesy of Arc:

    François Jacqmin, acknowledged as one of the foremost francophone Belgian poets of the latter half of the twentieth century, was born in 1929 in Horion-Hozémont in the province of Liège. In 1940 his family fled to England to escape the German occupation. He learned English in a school run by Spanish Jesuits, discovered English literature, and wrote his first unpublished poems in English. He returned to Belgium in 1948 and rediscovered his native language and literature. His association with the irreverent, experimental group that formed around the magazine Phantomas inspired him to develop a distinctive identity as a poet inspired by art, nature, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. His three major volumes of poetry are Les Saisons (1979), Le Domino gris (1984), and Le Livre de la neige (1990). Eléments de géométrie, a volume of prose poems written a few years before his death in 1992, was published in 2005. You can learn more about Jacqmin and the translation here, watch a short film about him here (in French), and read another poem from this book here.

    The translator, Philip Mosley, is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Pennsylvania State University. He earned his M.A. in European literature and his Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of East Anglia. Among his book publications are Split Screen: Belgian Cinema and Cultural Identity, Ingmar Bergman: The Cinema as Mistress, and Georges Rodenbach: Critical Essays. He has translated The Intelligence of Flowers by Maurice Maeterlinck, Bruges-la-Morte by Georges Rodenbach, Tea Masters, Teahouses by Werner Lambersy, and October Long Sunday by Guy Vaes. In 2008 he was awarded the Prix de la Traduction Littéraire by the French Community of Belgium for his translations of Belgian authors into English.

    Since it was founded in 1969, Arc has adhered to its fundamental principles – to introduce the best of new talent to a UK readership, including voices from overseas that would otherwise remain unheard in this country, and to remain at the cutting edge of contemporary poetry. Arc also has a music imprint, Arc Music, for the publication of books about music and musicians. Find out more about Arc by visiting the publisher's website, where there are discounts available on Arc books.

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