The Shape of a City Changes Faster, Alas, than the Human Heart


Composed of 150 poems, with a title taken from Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal, and partly a response to the poetry of Raymond Queneau, this collection explores Jacques Roubaud's many poetic modes. He skips from the strict form of the sonnet to the freedom of prose poetry without abandoning the melancholy playfulness that has defined his lengthy writing career.

A selection of Roubaud's best recent work, The Form of a City describes not only Paris, but also its people, its...

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Composed of 150 poems, with a title taken from Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal, and partly a response to the poetry of Raymond Queneau, this collection explores Jacques Roubaud's many poetic modes. He skips from the strict form of the sonnet to the freedom of prose poetry without abandoning the melancholy playfulness that has defined his lengthy writing career.

A selection of Roubaud's best recent work, The Form of a City describes not only Paris, but also its people, its writers (and those of the Oulipo in particular), its monumental past, and its unsteady response to change.

Dalkey Archive Press

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this hefty collection, renowned octogenarian novelist and poet Roubaud sets about capturing the city of Paris through a catalogue and discussion of its history, literature, landmarks and streets. Roubaud is a member of the Oulipo group of experimental writers, whose members have included Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino. The best of these poems breathe new life into this storied city. Roubaud's memorable description of the Eiffel Tower revivifies the cliched landmark: "A dense crowd amble in the area your four legs straddle/ and gawk up at your nether parts... children are not banned and will go back directly to our countryside and dream, perverted ever after." Notable, too, are the "Six Little Logical Pieces": "-But I'd like/ to think truth/ here and now/ not think of anything/ in this floating world/ this fallible world/ this rotten plank of a world." At times, this detailing of the minutiae of Paris falls flat, as in the poem "License Portrait of Paris 1992," quite literally a list of Paris license plates-though preserving the city in this manner is perhaps part of the point. A thoughtful appendix of notes clarifies references and connections to French literature throughout. (July 18) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781564783837
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2006
  • Series: French Literature Series
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 1,517,573
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jacques Roubaud, born in 1932, has been a professor of mathematics at the University of Paris X Nanterre. He is one of the most accomplished members of the Oulipo, the workshop for experimental literature founded by Raymond Queneau and Francois Le Lionnais. He is the author of numerous books of prose, theatre and poetry.

Keith Waldrop, Brooke Russell Astor Professor of Humanities at Brown University, has published more than a dozen works each of original poetry and translations. His first book, A Windmill Near Calvary, was shortlisted for the 1968 National Book Award. Other books include The Real Subject: Queries and Conjectures of Jacob Delafon, with Sample Poems, The House Seen from Nowhere, and a translation of The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire.

Rosmarie Waldrop was born in Germany and has lived in the
United States since 1958. The author and translator of dozens of books of poetry, fiction, and criticism, she is the co-founder and co-
publisher of Burning Deck Press.
Waldrop’s many honors include being named a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, fellowships from the
NEA, the Fund for Poetry, and the
Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award. In 2006 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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Table of Contents

Paris 5
Commentary on the preceding poem 6
It's taken 7
Rue Volta 9
We can no longer call on saint cloud 10
Boulevard de Clichy 12
Stamp-collecting 13
Metro 14
Arrondissements 17
Queneau in November 20
The Gioconda 25
Sacre-Coeur! 27
Informal intimate ode to the copy of the standard meter in the Rue de Vaugirard 28
Rue Duguay-Trouin 31
A hotel in Rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette 33
The Champs-Elysees roundabout 35
Pont des Arts 37
A poem for Claude Roy 39
Poem of the Eiffel Tower 44
Boulevard Pereire 46
Rue Etienne-Jodelle 47
The days grow shorter 48
The days grow longer 50
In spring 51
A couple in unison 54
Mother and daughter 55
Autumn in Rue du Printemps 56
Square Louis-XVI 57
Our kings 58
Rue Tronson-du-Coudray 59
Square Gabriel-Pierne 60
Place Paul-Verlaine 61
Rue de la Colonie 62
Rue Jonas 63
November 64
XVth Arrondissement 65
XVth Arrondissement, 2 66
Boulevard Arago 67
Autumn in the air 68
History 69
Charles Martel 70
Few memories 71
Avenue Ernest-Reyer (Parkside) 72
Rue Guillaume-Tell 73
Kitty O'Shea 74
A good day 75
Hermit 76
Impasse de Nevers 77
Dream of February 11, 19 - 78
Dream of August 17, 19 - 79
The street 80
Sonnet I 87
Sonnet II : Square de Louvois 88
Sonnet III 89
Sonnet IV : in this city you didn't love 90
Sonnet V : endgame 91
Sonnet VI 92
Sonnet VII : to the Eiffel Tower 93
Sonnet VIII : Gare Saint-Lazare 94
Sonnet IX : Rue Rossini 95
Sonnet X : Canal Saint-Martin 96
Sonnet XI : Sunday, mein Oberkampf 97
Sonnet XII : line 29 98
Sonnet XIII : Rue Bobillot 99
Sonnet XIV 100
Sonnet XV 101
Sonnet XVI : Maison de la Radio 102
Sonnet XVII 103
Sonnet XVIII 104
Sonnet XIX : Buttes-Chaumont 105
Sonnet XX 106
I It's raining 109
Raining! 111
II The past 114
A street 116
III The time of lightning 117
The time 118
IV The book 119
A street 124
V The occasion 125
A street 127
VI The truth 128
A street 130
Square des Blancs-Manteaux : meditation on death
I The entrance 135
II The description 136
III The division 137
IV The causes 138
V The effects 139
VI The subject 140
VII The adjuvant 141
VIII The contrary 142
VIIII The comparisons 143
X The names 144
XI The testimonies 145
XII The taste of our meditation 146
XIII The complaint 147
XIIII The wish 148
XV The confession 149
XVI The petition and enforcement 150
XVII The assurance or confidence - silence : rue : silence 151
XVIII The thanksgiving 152
The streets in Paris 157
Invitation to the voyage 160
A bit of sociology 163
Montmartre Cemetery 165
Doggies and beauty 166
Wooden Paris 167
The trade in classics 168
Aide sociale ... 170
Maison Blanche ... 171
Sacre Coeur ... 172
Counting out rhyme for the year (two) thousand 173
Rainbow 174
Calculation 175
It's snowing! 176
The snow is melting! 177
Plesent streets 178
It's been raining 181
Licence portrait of Paris 1992 183
The hour 184
Natch 189
Natch, 2 190
Complications 192
They lived on Rue Campagne-Premiere 193
What the poet says in regard to flowers, fruit, leaves, and branches 197
Place du General-Brocard 202
Ah! 204
Song of Rue Custine and Rue Caulaincourt 205
Rues Madame and Monsieur 207
Storm at nine 208
When 209
Rue d'Amsterdam 210
Quiet days at Porte d'Orleans 215
An address to the streets of Paris 217
Paris 218
Of Paris 219
Pont Mirabeau 220
Pont Mirabeau 221
Rue des entrepreneurs 222
Hotel des Deux Acacias 223
Quiet days at Porte d'Orleans, 2 (1993) 224
Rome's no longer in Rome, etc 226
Piratewatch 227
Rue Pavee 228
De 229
Square 230
Passage Choiseul 231
Rue Vielle-du-Temple, 1983 232
Alone, Rue Sainte-Anne, the Monday of Pentecost 1995 234
Quiet days at Porte d'Orleans, 3 (1995 version) 235
Among a lot of poems 239
Undated night, Rue Saint-Jacques 240
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