from Apparition of Objects

by Robert Majzels and Erin Moure, translated from the French written by Nicole Brossard

copyright ©English translation copyright © Robert Majzels and Erin Moure, 2007

winter water blue melt backlit
life suddenly in thin chemise
steadfast
in questions and old silences

in the puzzle of proper nouns
and barking city: February
slow eyelashes that beckon to love
and spinning tops

foliage of word for word
gentleness that evades meaning
plunge into the dark
with metronome

Notes on the Poem

This week, we are celebrating the announcement of newly minted Griffin Lifetime Recognition Award recipient Nicole Brossard of Canada. Let's revisit some of her work, which was shortlisted in translation for the Griffin Poetry Prize several years ago. The 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize judges noted that Nicole Brossard "has always shone an investigative light on every word that comes to her." The judges go on in the citation for Notebook of Roses and Civilization to note that those essaying to translate Brossard's work have high standards to reach, but they conclude that Robert Majzels and Erin Moure have done so very admirably. This piquant portion of "Apparition of Objects" illustrates their achievement well. Individual lines and phrases taken on their own, with no assumed relation to the lines preceding or following, are pleasurable and evocative fragments unto themselves. This one is refreshing: "winter water blue melt backlit" ... and this one is startling: "life suddenly in thin chemise" ... and this one is alluring: "slow eyelashes that beckon to love" The poem's brief, uncluttered lines, virtually devoid of punctuation, allows each word to seem to breathe expansively on its own. Perhaps Brossard/Majzel/Moure's intended effect is best captured in the line: "foliage of word for word" Perhaps words linked together in a certain order force a certain dense or tangled meaning, and it's only by "plung[ing] into the dark" unknown and setting a new rhythm or approach (whatever the metronome might signify) can those words be invested with new meaning.

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