By John, posted by Tracy
I am often trying to reach a prosodic equilibrium between lyric and rhetoric, or, if one prefers, between a gesture to ‘things’ and their quiddity, and a ‘polemic’ or political utterance. I don't want to operate in the ‘passive’ mode in which a lot of ‘nature poetry’ operates — agency is the definitive double-edged ploughshare, it brings humans spiritual and material awareness, but/and it costs everything else. That’s what I am investigating. The question becomes which side of tolerable (for a given reader, I guess), this lyrical-rhetorical weighting falls. Which is not to say I don’t see the ‘pure lyric’ as relevant — in fact, I often dwell, lurk and retreat there — but it is not the only place.
I wrote this manifesto against rapacity early in 2012. Thought it worth posting the link here.
Some time or other I will ask Tracy if she can post the document itself on this blog (thanks, Tracy).
And here’s a translation from French of a great poet from La Réunion. The notes that follow are cribbed from an email I sent to someone when I was translating the poet (I’ve done a bunch of poems) — sourcing/adapting bio information from French sources. I believe this is one of the rare times Auguste Lacaussade — the mid-nineteenth century French poet from La Réunion — has been translated into English. He is an incredible poet and deserves to be read (still). He wrote his poems from afar — schooling in France and looking back to his childhood home on Bourbon, as La Réunion was then known. Later, he returned, but found the racism so hard to deal with that he went back to France (says something). He eventually became quite bitter, and this is reflected in his late poetry. Of both African and French heritage (son of a freed slave woman and a lawyer from a Bordeaux family), Lacaussade resisted slavery on the island and went on to become a very significant French literary figure, though he faded from the limelight and was always (unjustly) in Leconte de Lisle’s shadow. Never made a member of the French Academy, he felt this was due to his ‘mixed-race’ background — no doubt he was right, given the times. A translator of the English Romantics, he has a street and a few schools named after him on the island of La Réunion. Lacaussade is a major poet of place: there’s an intimacy and reflective distance (sure, nostalgia is in there in the configurings or remembered experience as if they are plein-air compositions, but much more... he has his own kind of ‘sublime’ at work).
Auguste Lacaussade’s Le Papillon (The Butterfly)
Your gilded wings, young and stylish butterfly,
Reflect the azured colours of the sky,
You who compete with the breeze’s kiss for flowers
As you pass through the air like a sparkling
Breath, and when dying day’s light is fading,
Sleep upon their fragrant calyxes.
If you see my love, don’t pay tribute to her
Rosy lips as you might the open flower;
Your infatuated eye is permitted this fault;
But I shall be jealous of your supreme happiness:
I alone want to draw from the mouth I idolize
The scents of sensual delight.
translated by John Kinsella
As a postscript, my novel Morpheus is finally out: originally written when I was a 18/19, it’s taken over thirty years to appear. For any of you wanting to join in with the goings-on of Thomas Icarus Napoleon, it’s here.