Thursday, February 20, 2014

"poesie" by Jacques Prevert

Posted By on Thu, Feb 20, 2014 at 12:08 AM

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When I say "Prevert" into my voice-activated computer, it writes: "pray there." I found this bilingual edition — French and Italian — (published by Newton Compton Italiana) for free at the thrift shop here in Phoenicia, NY, and spent maybe six years slowly reading it (but only in French). poesie is intimate, sympathetic, but much trickier than Paroles, the only other book of Prevert's I know (in the Lawrence Ferlinghetti translation, from City Lights).

Here, let me translate a little, in my crude way, from a poem at random:

Hello hello don't leave listen
to the grapevine without asking who died
and why he died
His death it's our business
the business of the Nation
on the back of all our medals his name
will be piously graven
like on the first goblets
of the noble newly-born

[From "Cagnes-Sur-Mer": the italics are in the original.]

A tragic hope permeates these lines — the birthfulness of death.
Sparrow reviews a book of French poetry he found for free at the thrift shop in Phoenicia.

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