Elles: A Bilingual Anthology of Modern French Poetry by Women

Elles: A Bilingual Anthology of Modern French Poetry by Women

by Martin Sorrell
     
 


ELLES is the first bilingual anthology of its kind. It introduces English-speaking readers to some of the best French poetry written by women over the last twenty years. Martin Sorrell has chosen a selection of work from seventeen distinctive and diverse poets, and he has provided lively facing-page verse translations, poems in their own right, alongside the…  See more details below

Overview


ELLES is the first bilingual anthology of its kind. It introduces English-speaking readers to some of the best French poetry written by women over the last twenty years. Martin Sorrell has chosen a selection of work from seventeen distinctive and diverse poets, and he has provided lively facing-page verse translations, poems in their own right, alongside the originals.
Martin Sorrell's Introduction situates the poets in their context and discusses the issues which confronted him as compiler and translator, not least as a man responding to creative work written by women. Each poet introduces herself with an essay on her conception of poetry and her own position as a writer. These biographical pieces are published in French and in an English translation. There is also a selected bibliography for each poet.
The Afterword, by Jacqueline Chénieux-Gendron - Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, and a leading specialist in modern French literature - is also published in French and in an English translation. The poets represented in ELLES are Marie-Claire Bancquart, Christiane Baroche, Geneviève Bon, Claude de Burine, Andrée Chedid, Louise Herlin, Jeanne Hyvrard, Leslie Kaplan, Josée Lapeyrère, Jo-Ann Léon, Anne Portugal, Gisèle Prassinos, Jacqueline Risset, Amina Saïd, Sylvia Baron Supervielle, Marguerite Yourcenar, and Céline Zins.

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Editorial Reviews

Forum for Modern Language Studies

“This exciting new collection, the first of its kind to introduce a powerful selection of contemporary French poetry by women to an anglophone audience, is much more than an anthology. Martin Sorrell presents the question of gender and universality in poetry in a dialogue of féminine/féministe voices, both well-known poets such as Chedid, Hyvrard and Yourcenar and their company of lesser-known sisters. His sensitive introduction and translations, which above all seek to respect and do justice to the tongue of each woman poet, take full account of the question, 'Could and should a man translate and publish a selection he had made of women's poems?'(page 6, his emphasis). Sorrell's response is the very unencapsulating mode of both his selection, the way in which he sets his translation alongside the original poem in the context of her viewpoint on herself and poet and on poetry, and the listening quality of his translation Jacqueline Chénieux-Gendron's afterword pinpoints the diversity of these poets, but their common voice, the touch of women's tongues, is sure and tender. But so, too, as this book clearly demonstrates, may be the voice of the translator à la Sorrell(e). This book, then, sets new and high standard for poetry anthologies and translations of poetry.” –Forum for Modern Language Studies, 1997

Modern Language Review

“(The) strategy of identifying a strong semantic line and building the translation round it is inevitably selective but here it produces English texts that work as poems in their own right. It is the bilingual reader, however, who has most to gain: moving back and forth between versions, one begins to understand the choices (semantic, tonal, rhythmic) made by the translator, which in turn illuminate and enrich one's reading of the original. At its best, as here, this type of translation is as analytical as any literary commentary.” –Modern Language Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780859894487
Publisher:
University of Exeter Press
Publication date:
01/01/1995
Series:
European Studies
Edition description:
1
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
8.40(w) x 5.40(h) x 0.80(d)

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Elles

A Bilingual Anthology of Modern French Poetry by Women


By Martin Sorrell

University of Exeter Press

Copyright © 1995 University of Exeter Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-85989-911-6



CHAPTER 1

Marie-Claire Bancquart


Biographie:

Née à Aubin (Aveyron) 1932. Mariée au compositeur de musique Alain Bancquart.

Professeur de littérature à l'Université de Paris-IV (Sorbonne), où elle est responsable du Centre sur la poésie française de 1945 à 1970; a publié des essais sur Paris chez les surréalistes (Seghers) et Paris fin de siècle (La Différence), des éditions commentées de Maupassant, l'édition des œuvres d'Anatole France en Pléiade, des essais sur ces écrivains (le dernier: Anatole France dans la collection Ecrivain/ Ecrivain, Julliard, 1994), et des colloques et articles sur la poésie française contemporaine (les derniers articles ont paru dans le numéro de juillet 1993 d'Obsidiane sur Frénaud: Genèse du «Cheval de cirque» de Pierre Bonnard, et dans le numéro d'Ibis, Bologne, hiver 1993, sur Jean Tardieu: L'Epaisseur des grands feuillages muets).

Prix Sainte-Beuve de la critique; Prix de l'essai critique de la ville de Paris; Grand Prix de critique de l'Académie française.


Essai:

Pour moi, la poésie dérange. Elle fait appel contre la dégradation de la langue, en essayant de redonner leur pleine saveur aux mots et de supprimer les liaisons syntaxiques de «causalité» rationnelle. Elle fait appel contre la dégradation du corps, de l'âme, engagés dans des utilisations commerciales ou terroristes. Elle dit violemment, et la présence des choses, et un ailleurs des choses. C'est, comme dit Bachelard, une métaphysique de l'instantané. La poésie demande du travail: elle est donc aussi un artisanat, de quelque «école» qu'elle se réclame. On n'a pas à fermer les yeux devant elle et à proclamer que l'inspiration est impénétrable. Ce n'est pas vrai: tout bon poème, étant aussi artisanat, peut s'analyser jusqu'à un certain point, et être éclairé pour un public mal préparé. Mais seulement jusqu'à un certain point. Reste l'«infracassable noyau de nuit», la solitude du poème devant celle du lecteur.

Ma poésie se confond avec une expérience vitale. Interrogation sur notre origine, sur notre place «intenable», dans un monde à la fois somptueux, et livré au désordre et au mal: le mal, la mort, problèmes qui hantent et qui sont insolubles ... la preuve, c'est qu'on recommence sans arrêt à essayer de les résoudre. J'ai le sentiment qu'un au-delà est impossible, qu'il est disqualifié par le noir de ce monde. Mais en même temps il m'apparaît fortement comme nécessaire, car nous sentons l'appel vers un «ailleurs».

J'écris donc adossée à la mort, et à sa petite monnaie, maladie, vieillissement. Peut-être de très graves maladies de jeunesse m'ont-elles pour toujours orientée ainsi. Mais ce n'est pas du tout morbide. Je ressens d'autant plus l'amour du monde si doux dans le quotidien, si violent dans le plaisir; la présence du corps blessé, mais traversé de joie et magnifié. S'il y a une évolution dans ma poésie, c'est vers un apaisement et une sensualité. Passage toujours inquiet de l'ombre à la lumière, du nocturne au diurne ...

Je ne sépare pas le «dit» du «dire», qui est un constant travail. Nommer juste, direct, violent, avec une charge d'images. Je voudrais rendre sensibles les intervalles les plus minces possibles entre les choses et les gens, et à l'intérieur des choses et des gens. Ils correspondent à notre impression d'être à la fois «à distance» et «en union».

Je m'intéresse beaucoup à la mythologie (qui comprend pour moi le christianisme, puisque je suis agnostique). Surtout celle de notre civilisation occidentale, qui m'a formée. Je suis frappée par le fait que toute histoire mythologique comprend à la fois un recours à un «ailleurs» et des détails très matériels (les pieds enflés d'Œdipe, Jésus jardinier); c'est par là qu'elle me semble être élément possible de la poésie. Tantôt grâce à elle, tantôt autrement, j'écris un cahier de réclamations qui est aussi une célébration. Etant entendu que le «je» en poésie, c'est tout le monde! La saveur des choses et la mort sont communes à tous.

    Malade

    Fidèle à la fable
    qui ferait vivre un dieu dans le soleil étroit
    elle tourne son regard vers le carrefour des feuilles.

    Elle n'a pas le choix de la douleur
    qui veille entre son cœur et son épaule.

    Semblable aux cailloutis de la route
    où les fragments se sont accommodés
    lentement
    les uns aux autres
    son corps se fait à me incantation nouvelle
    de pierre et d'arbre
    dans les couloirs du sang visités par une brûlure.


    Simple

    Troué de ciel et d'oiseaux
    l'arbre bouge sur nos ombres.

    Le murmure des étoffes
    répond à l'herbe froissée.

    Une pomme douce croît
    et le rêve des nuages
    est moins rapide que l'eau.

    Une veine de la terre
    va se couvrir de ms corps.

    Démaquillée d'heures la vie
    rentre dans l'ordre végétal.


    Christ jardinier

    I. Brusquement son visage dans celui du jardinier
    brusquement sa main tenant un chapelet d'ail et de seigle
    sa parole un peu durcie, paysanne.

    Le corps n'est plus désert. Le temps se mesure
    en boue et plumes. Le Christ maintenant fidèle à sa vie
    regrette une lumière indécise d'enfance.

    A tombeau ouvert
    le ciel approche
    le dérobe aux regards de la femme.

    Elle égrène à présent sur l'ail et le seigle
    un silence de Magnificat.

    II. Elle serre un souvenir
    à rendre le souffle.

    Au fond de ses lombes et de ses poumons
    le mort silencieux a élu présence.

    Au miroir
    elle efface son corps dans le crépuscule
    elle s'étonne en voyant son propre visage.

    Parmi les choses de longtemps s'enracine en elle
    la tendresse d'un Dieu bouturé.


    Retour d'Ulysse

    Ulysse tue les prétendants près d'un fragile bol de lait
    qu'une servante
    aux seins désormais traversés de flèches
    serrait
    tout blanc.

    Surprise dans les yeux des cadavres.

    Surprise au cœur d'Ulysse :
    avoir tant erré pour trouver ce retour,
    sa femme à peine reconnue, la servante massacrée par erreur.

    Il se reprend. Tendresse
    du métier à tisser
    du lit
    du soleil sur le lait.

    Le long périple aux monstres
    c'est
    maintenant
    le doigt qui suit au bord du bol un rivage toujours d'exil

    la figure qui se regarde
    en étroit liquide

    et ce qu'il faut de ciel pour bleuir le lait autour d'elle.


    L'escalier

    Mon grand-père est mort dans cet escalier, un soir.

    Il se nouait aux marches par un mariage mystérieux.

    L'arbre ancien déchiffrait en lui des restes de présence :
    le poil qui pousse
    la salive pas sèche.

    Il l'aidait à
passer.

    Et quand on disposa le cadavre sur un lit
    c'était déjà notre étranger.

    Ancien mineur, il boise
    maintenant
    sous ms pieds
    notre future mort.


MARIE-CLAIRE BANCQUART

Biography:

Born 1932, Aubin (Aveyron). Married to composer Alain Bancquart. Professor of Literature, University of Paris-4 (Sorbonne). Director of the Sorbonne's Centre for French Poetry, 1945–1970. Has published essays on the Paris of the Surrealists (Seghers); fin de siècle Paris (La Différence); critical edition of Maupassant; has edited Anatole France's work for the Pléiade edition (Gallimard); written articles on these writers (the last to appear: Anatole France, published in 1994 by Julliard in its Ecrivain/Ecrivain series); conference papers, articles on contemporary French poetry (most recently, in the July 1993 issue of Obsidiane, on Frénaud, Genèse du «Cheval de cirque» de Pierre Bonnard; and in the Winter 1993 issue of Ibis, Bologna, on Jean Tardieu, L'Epaisseur des grands feuillages muets).

Awarded Prix Sainte-Beuve (for criticism); Prix de l'essai critique de la ville de Paris (for critical essays); Grand Prix de critique de l'Académie française (for criticism).


Essay:

Poetry for me is something which disturbs. It will not accept the degradation of language; it fights to give back to words their full savour by wrecking the systematised rationality of syntax. It fights erosion of a body and a spirit trapped in commercial or terrorist uses of language. It speaks with violence for both the presence of things and for their otherness, their 'elsewhere'. As Bachelard says, it is a metaphysics of the instantaneous. Poetry demands work; therefore it is also a craft practised by artisans, irrespective of what 'school' it belongs to. We are wrong to close our eyes and pretend that inspiration is a closed book. It is simply not true. As any good poem is a crafted piece of work, it can be analysed, at least up to a certain point, and elucidated for the untrained reader. But only up to a certain point. There still remains the 'unbreakable kernel of night', the solitude of the poem face to face with the solitude of the reader.

My poetry is intimately bound up with my understanding of life. It questions our origins, our 'untenable' place in a world which is at the same time sumptuous, unruly and evil. Evil and death are problems which will not go away and which have no solutions ... a situation underlined by our perennial need to go on seeking answers. My own feeling is that there cannot be any world beyond this one, that the blackness of this one rules it out. At the same time, it continues to seem to me an absolute necessity, driven as we are constantly to look for 'somewhere else'.

So, I write as it were backed up against death and its well-known warm-up acts, illness and ageing. Perhaps it is the serious illnesses I suffered as a child which have shaped my way of thinking. But my attitude is not in any way morbid. I have an especially keen love of the world as it manifests itself in its daily ordinariness, in the intensity of its pleasures. The body may be injured, but it is also suffused with joy and magnified by it. If my poetry has evolved in any way, it has been towards peace and sensuality. The transition from shadow to light, from night to day, always a tense moment ...

I make no distinction between 'what is said' and 'saying it*. The latter is unending work. Precise choice of words, direct, violent expression with a charge of images. My wish is to reduce to an absolute minimum those gaps which exist between people and things, within things and people themselves. These gaps correspond to our impression of being at one and the same time 'at a distance' and 'joined in union'.

I am very interested in mythology (for me this necessarily includes Christianity as I am agnostic). That is, the mythology of Western civilisation, which has shaped me. I have always been struck by the fact that any mythological story simultaneously uses distancing, an 'elsewhere', and thoroughly material details. For example, the swollen feet of CEdipus, or Christ working in the garden. It is this very phenomenon which makes mythology for me a valid and workable element of poetry. Sometimes thanks to mythology, sometimes thanks to other things, I fill my notebook with tough questions and demands—but this notebook is also a celebration. It goes without saying, of course, that the first person pronoun in poetry stands for everyone! The taste of things and death belong to us all, equally.

    Unwell

    Faithful to the fable
    which has a god living in the sun's vice
    she turns her eyes to the crisscross of leaves.

    She's in no position to refuse the pain
    keeping vigil between heart and shoulder.

    Like gravel on a road
    where the chippings have reached an understanding
    slowly
    among themselves
    her body adjusts to a new incantation
    of stone and tree
    in the corridors of her blood where a burn does its rounds.


    Simple

    Latticed by birds and sky
    the tree moves on our shadows.

    The murmur of fabric
    answers crushed grass.

    A sweet apple grows
    and the dream of clouds
    is slower than water.

    Our bodies will cover
    a vein of earth.

    Minus its make-up of hours life
    takes its place once more in the order of plants.


    Christ in the Garden

    I. Abruptly his face in the gardener's face
    abruptly a rosary of garlic and rye in his hand
    his language now rougher, his peasant-talk.

    The body's no longer a desert. Time is measured
    in mud and feathers. Christ now keeping faith with his life
    misses the uncertain light of childhood.

    Open-tombed
    heavens approach
    spirit him away from the watching woman.

    And now on the rye and garlic she tells
    a beaded silence a Magnificat.

    II. She hugs tight a memory
    enough to squeeze out breath.

    Deep in her loins and in her heart
    silent death has planted its flag.

    At the mirror
    she cancels her body in the half-light
    astonished at the sight of her own face.

    Among long-established things
    the tenderness of cuttings
    taken from a God
    spreads roots in her.


    Return of Ulysses

    Ulysses kills the suitors close to a fragile bowl of milk
    which a servant
    with breasts henceforth pierced by arrows
    was clasping
    in its whiteness.

    Surprise in the corpses' eyes.

    Surprise in Ulysses's heart:
    that great odyssey for such a homecoming,
    a wife barely recognised, a servant butchered in error.

    He collects himself. Tenderness
    of the loom
    of the bed
    the sun on milk.

    The long voyage crowded with monsters
    now
    is
    a finger tracing exile's endless shore around the bowl's rim

    the face reflected
    in confines of liquid

    and enough blue sky to tint the milk around it.


    The stairs

    My grandfather died on these stairs one evening.

    He was binding himself to the steps in mysterious marriage.

    The ancient tree deciphered remains of his presence:
    the beard growing still
    the still-moist saliva.

    It helped him to pass.

    And when the corpse was laid out on a bed
    it was already our stranger.

    Once a miner, now
    beneath our feet
    he timbers
    our death to come.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Elles by Martin Sorrell. Copyright © 1995 University of Exeter Press. Excerpted by permission of University of Exeter Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Martin Sorrel is Senior Lecturer in French, University of Exeter.

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