Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Words in Stone / Pierre écrite by Yves Bonnefoy (1965)

A Stone

A fire goes before us.
For a moment I glimpsed your nape, your face,
And then only the torch,
Only the massive fire, the surge of the dead.

Ember, you who fall away from the flame
In the evening light,
O presence:
Gather us under your furtive arch
For a dark celebration.

(Yves Bonnefoy, Words in Stone / Pierre écrite, p. 97)

My next taste of Harold Bloom's Western Canon list is Yves Bonnefoy's book of poetry, Words in Stone / Pierre écrite (1965, Translated by Susanna Lang, 1976).

Bonnefoy's poems use deceptively simple, repetitive words to explore a world that is natural and mysterious, open and hidden. While I don't speak French, Lang's translation has a smooth rhythm and having the French original on facing pages gives even a non-speaker a sense of Bonnefoy's original metre and rhyme.

I've said this before, but I really do need to become a better poetry reader. I took this one in in small chunks in the mornings, and re-read most of the poems at least three times, and I still feel like large chunks of Bonnefoy's meaning slipped through my fingers. I guess I just need more canonical practice...

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