I am grateful to Christine Tipper for editing this selection of contemporary Franco-Canadian poetry. Christine holds a PhD and an MA in French Literary Translation from the University of Exeter, England. A poet, author, translator, interpreter and lecturer, she is passionate about language. She translates from French, Spanish and Nepali. She has been internationally published as a poet, author and translator. Her translations include Changing Shores by Nadine Ltaif, We come from the same light by Danielle Fournier, Where Spaces Glow by Francis Catalano, Smile, you’re getting old by Evelyne Wilwerth – all published by Guernica Editions. I write these words by Lélia Young (Inanna). Her latest translation is Journeys by Nadine Ltaif (Guernica, 2020).
Louise Dupré: Two Poems translated by Christine Tipper
WHAT I WILL BEQUEATH
I was the daughter of my mother
then the mother of my daughter
then the mother of my mother
and one day I will become
the daughter of my daughter
I was the daughter of Cécile
she, the daughter of Léda
who was the daughter of Émilie
but who the mother of Émilie was
I never knew
Our history gets lost in the anonymity
of an immemorial line
of mothers and daughters
who have made me who I am
me, a left-handed poet
that of the heart and fingers
raised towards the light
The four corners of the sky
are now lit up
bombs, shells, human soup
on giant screens
and every morning I watch the world
lurch between its agonies
while trying to inhabit
before it burns
the tips of my eyelashes
Every morning I search for
a little gentleness
to continue dreaming
the Earth like an egg
decorated by a mother courage
that has not renounced
Like the mothers of my mothers
I am not a woman who renounces
I want to bequeath
to my daughter
a house with windows
that allow fresh air and the future
A future is needed
with a strong desire
words are needed
from mother to daughter
and daughter to mother
in the ancient tale
capable of indicating
to lost children
the right path
We are the children
of so many women
that we do not know
how to stitch ourselves together
but we learn
how to say mother
with the desire
to live with our hands
and to invent a universe
We card, thread
and weave a memory
to offer to our daughters
so that they may create
dresses for dancing
We, the daughters of our mothers
then the mothers of our daughters
then the mothers of our mothers
and, one day, the daughters of our daughters
* quote from Paul Éluard
I have an infinity of brothers
I have an infinity of sisters
is each day
where you advance
with a thread
in your hand
despite the heart
and the doubt
cut with a knife
Your poem feels so alone
that it dreams
an infinity of brothers and sisters
burning virgins *
that stick out their tongues
at the present
And you learn to say
like we call
when we are afraid
You can no longer support
that you see settling
like an end
of the world
that justifies the means
You practise translating
into a common language
even if you are used to
lost in advance
You have swopped piety
you are indignant
a mad old woman
who screams we
so as not to die
you want to start
by this call
addressed to those
men and women who resist
You cultivate the rebellion
like trampled plants
wait for a helpful
to welcome them
You know your desire
and you stop being sparing
with your steps
because you have well and truly
under your skin
this urge to live
when you imagine
the future as the opposite
of a disaster
that it is not too late
to repair your instinct
and you resolutely repeat
with your brothers and sisters
capable of walking
in the infinity
of their solitude
* This expression has been borrowed from the title of Paul-Marie Lapointe’s ‘Le vierge incendié/The burning virgin’
Poet, novelist and short story writer, Louise Dupré, has published over twenty works, which have been awarded numerous prizes and distinctions, such as the Prix de Poésie du Gouverneur Général in 2011 Plus haut que les flammes (Noroît) and in 2017 La main hantée, (Éditions Bruno Doucey). Her novel, Théo à jamais, has just been published by Héliotrope. She is member of the Académie des lettres du Québec and the Ordre du Canada.
Denise Desautels: Poem translated by Christine Tipper
AND OTHER MULTIPLE PRODUCTS*
I adapt, I am an invention
an analogy, ivy, clavichord
I speak of night for the duration
‘Temps qui installe les miroirs’
The ancient film stops and resumes.
Fingers in fits and starts rise in the air.
Whose are these absent pupils.
And the fingers – look like an army
descend attached to shadows.
And the fingers rise again – high.
We call it syncope.
In the back and forth of napes
and of thoughts heads bow– elsewhere.
Is there even an elsewhere.
Eyelids sewn fixed on the ground
the world on the inside.
Their too many fingers of women
sewing. The fingers the heads
the tempo of the needles and series of machines.
Despite the touch of air on their napes
the fingers of lost souls
dig in – avid verticals
grey cotton collisions factories.
And the scenario runs in the mute present.
For numerous fingers make
Void vestment volition voyage
In black and white
the notes fall.
After the crepuscule
the women their factories
close. On the ground – no matter
the continent their enclosed anger of exile.
White black white keys.
Frenetic Ravel in the German
pavilion of Giardini.
On the screen all is immense.
The offset left hands
gallop. The right hands
– useless verticals. From keyboard
to keyboard the hands – the left ones continue
fly free the fingers
in fits and starts in the air
make music voyage.
Where they come from.
Screens keyboards modules
free the fingers
in thousands of times and places.
Elsewhere – here
– centuries have passed
before our eyes.
Very far from the world.
Face to face. Words
of love – what synchronicity
voices and gestures
of amorous continents.
On the screen the tiny beast.
has approached us.
From far away I am here. See your head
that falls I hear it crack.
Your untouchable head drops – vertical
slips under the bar of the horizon.
The keyboard. From far away
the new continent watches
your fall – I am here.
Sound the alarm, warning siren
screams SAMU – I am here.
Immaterial mass of emergency
objects rushes rockets
traverses walls and seas.
Within easy reach of fingers of the heart – intrusive
the final service enters your home.
The science itself excessive.
You will come out of it alive.
My fingers my desire
black notebook yellow block settles.
Settles unsettled obsession for joy.
Ravel Ravel unravel* is title of a work by Anri Sala, presented at the 55th Biennial in Venice 2013, in which figures the left hands of the pianists Louis Lortie and Jean-Efflam Bavouzet.
Denise Desautels has published over forty works – poetry collections, stories and artist books, which have brought her numerous distinctions, including the prix Athanase-David, the highest literary distinction awarded by the government of Quebec. In 2017 she published D’où surgit parfois un bras d’horizon (Noroît) and, in 2018, in France, two small publications which eloquently describe her work: Noirs with Erika Povilonyté, (L’Atelier des Noyers), and Disparition (détail) inspired from a work by Sylvie Cotton, (Petit Flou). She is member of the Académie des lettres du Québec and the Ordre du Canada.
Francis Catalano: Five Poems translated by Christine Tipper
FOUR SEASONS AND AN INDIAN SUMMER
how it snows, mirror shards detached from the sky
millions of pieces, spangles sequins or phosphenes
that reflect in the fading day
winter prepares us, cooks us,
winter has us cooked
rather than falling it stays suspended
a gift of ubiquitous crystals
the smoke rises from afar while here it snows
a first renewed contact
an armada of whiteness
come to stay to freeze then remain
what else do I have?
what else do I have other than snow?
Thus the snow on the ground thaws.
these strong winds that are nothing
that bow those that are still not morning glories
as if the depth of the air
were an incomplete sea
the light schemes with the infinite greatness
it fools the stars with other suns
The stirring spring,
maximum and minimum values spinning in a dice cup
up against it, the weather forecaster seriously
embraces his own skull
a residue of it will snow followed by an anthracite dust
Day after day the gleaming dawns drip
Freeze and thaw hand in hand
The arrow of time
until the stone cracks
There, empty of summer, are the plains,
And the forest appears in its sombre image.
summer does not exist more than the rest
no more than literature, also
no more than words that await the things they become
and will never become
no more than gestures never formed
here is summer that is already no more than a forecast
that was a badly aimed shot
and later will be simple and then anterior
under recomposed storms
Summer does not exist more or less than the rest existed
that summer which was, verbal, vegetal
that which is taken off and which before stuck to the skin
the heat of this canine left in the canicule
it drools over all sights of ellipses
no sooner announced summer non-existent, insupportable, inextinguishable
season launched towards bifurcations towards that which unfurls
the edge of non-being
Fleeting summer, a star of fire
we enter within
autumn atoms and a road trip again
charging straight into total atony among the golds
with tufts of red and yellows interspersed
this number 9 month that is being written is a twist of Laocoon
a crossing towards the psycho hills
wrapped around ankles, and they compress
The psycho hills swallow each other
the lines love each other, launch themselves
They are green seas
We progress within, within the memories
of animals, within the word for word
then within a convoy of motorcyclists
We will be crazy ions, articulated lorries
with rimless tyres
milk trifles, detached cows
autumn mixes its tonnes of chlorophyll
Buds withdraw as far as the roots
in the heavy sap branches bathe
The scholar of leaves sheds and stirs
while Laocoon turns his coat
counterfeits bank notes
and Apollo accepts them
what a man
The month of September has opened its noisy doors
And humility enters under an icy sun
small black-headed tit observed by so many seeing eyes, in real time
perches on the fountain’s bowl. Small black-headed tit drinks from an immemorial jet of water,
hops from here to there on the concrete border cheerful, not worried by this nothing
Halloween furtively approaches
From the terrace the silence climbs the involuntary line of the trunk, a slow wind flutters against
an old vine
A mega storm is on its way
The information broadcast on a loop on the news channels
On the charred doors of summer, a name knocks: FrankenStorm
In comparison Irene and Lucy were mere smoke and mirrors
regrettable dust fallen into an eye
of a nondescript low-pressure system
a mega storm is on its way
Once the watering hose, gardenias, oleander, and the guardians
of the garden are tidied away, the tit suddenly reappears
on the roll of a dice off to other places, using the urgent meanders of the air
Francis Catalano was born in Montreal. Poet, poetry translator, novelist and essayist he has published seven poetry collections including Panoptikon (Triptyque, 2005), Qu’une lueur des lieux (L’Hexagone, 2010, Grand prix Quebecor at 26e Festival international de Poésie de Trois-Rivières), Au cœur des esquisses (L’Hexagone, 2014) and Douze avrils (Écrits des Forges, 2018). A collection of short stories, Qu’il fasse ce temps, is to be released (Druide, 2020). As a translator he has published Instructions pour la lecture d’un journal by Valerio Magrelli (Prix de traduction John-Glassco), Yellow by Antonio Porta and Bouche secrète by Fabio Scotto.
Nadine Ltaif: Six Poems translated by Christine Tipper
I LOSE NOTHING FROM MY WANDERINGS MANUSCRIPT 3
The screams rip the sky xxthey are those of the gulls
the beggars are mutexx in the streets of Montreal
their voicesxxxx muffled by the falls of snow Inaudible
xxxthe words he entrusted to paper to the bark of birches
to cigarette packetsxxx to papers of tobacco xxroll-ups
His story should be written because no one will have done it in his place
the history books have ignored his story
xxxxxxxxand that of his people And that of his friend the Amerindian
who xxxxhad his tongue xxxxxxcut off The Amerindian who gave everything
And his land xxxxand his traditions He wandered like him
around the streets of xxxxxxzxxxMontreal He sat
in supermarket entrances xxxxxxxxHand held out to those passing by
But look xxan Arabic woman passes xxxxxShe opens her shopping bag
and offers him fruits xxHe plunges
his hand thankful He takes out a pear xxxxxxxan an apple
In the cold sky
The moon illuminates
the black night
She is full
bursting with light
The milky whiteness
of a full moon
in the cold season
when she pierces
that run across her
Her nudity is troubling
An eye of truth
in the night.
I hang around the streets
I write on a stone
songs come to me
the destitute, the castaways
I refused thrones and palaces
I have only a frozen tree trunk
on which to lean my bony back
Life passes before my eyes
I have witnessed the disappearance of beings
the most dearly loved
one after another
who one day killed each other
without victors or vanquished.
Against a tree trunk
even in the summer
when ants amass
assembled to listen to me
Their antennae quivering
My story of several stages
That of empires
and of pillaging.
There are days, the full moon is so big, that the moments
xxxxxxof peace become intolerable.
And the bumblebee continues to woo the flower.
I no longer want to hear this world’s lament
xxxxxxthat has become a refrain. The screams of hell
are not those from below, but in fact those from here.
The bumblebee returned this morning, in all its cruelty,
to seduce the red trumpets of the Calibrachoa.
I think I’m dreaming, in reality, I’m hallucinating.
What do I see, or think I see, I don’t want to believe it, above the ramparts
of a bridge, heads without bodies are thrown in the Bosporus.
But I prefer not to pronounce what I see and cannot broadcast.
So I record it in my notebook, that no one will read.
Nadine Ltaif is a poet and translator, living in Montreal. Her first book, Les Métamorphoses d’Ishtar, was published by Guernica in 1987. Her books of poetry in French have been published in Montréal by Le Noroît. Among them Ce que vous ne lirez pas, Hamra comme par hasard and Rien de mon errance. Her book Entre les fleuves (Changing Shores, shortlisted for Emile Nelligan Award) and a collection of poems, Journeys, have been translated by Christine Tipper and published by Guernica. She also works in cinema and is co-founder of the multi-lingual webzine Mïtra. Blog: ttps://lescarnetsdishtar.blogspot.com/
Nelly Roffé: Three Poems translated by Christine Tipper
AUTUMN NIGHTS IN MONTREAL
The city takes shape on the skyline
each building, each tree
exposed to the wind.
In the town centre
neon lights tremble
made of zigzags
disappeared the hazy outlines
that misted the windows.
The whores of Rue Saint-Laurent
signal to clients
sheltered in doorways
they hang around
in the night clubs.
rises up, suddenly violent
against the night sky
it, which all summer,
spread out its gentle slopes.
Autumn in Montreal
everything seems more difficult
streets seem longer
noises sound louder.
‘Autumn is stingy
Noah thinks sadly’
The man starts shouting
the Gazette! Latest news, the Gazette!
tramps huddle together on concrete benches
in Philips Square
and behind the Eaton shop windows
prepare to spend the night
on their Beautyrest mattresses.
THE ALMOND AND THE FIG TREE
What chant will be born from your absence
on the breaking wave
one evening of sand?
My body is no longer a mirror that dances
while I remember.
The child, the gazelle
the horizon that sings
my hand caressing
the tree’s strands
summer open to the sky
like a distant death
and this day of forgetfulness
on my crumpled memory.
The day suspended
between sun and dusk
retreats from the sky
it brushes against the wave
despite the wind
the blue of the sail
engraves its imprint
naked on the surf.
A glass of tea
on the mat
the old talk of the past
the girls await
the soul veiled
they know how to read
the lines of the sea
on the weaving dunes
woven with patience.
I turned my back on my town
but I spoke of the sea
retraced my voice
a wreck full of scars
injuries like ramparts
where blind birds
fall from the moon
grenadine red and juicy.
Gone far away
in the cold and solitude
the frost has chapped our wounds
visited by winter our windows
invent the wool woven
by our mothers’ hands
risen at dawn
a large glass of tea
to warm our foreheads.
THE LOST PERFUMES OF FRIDA
You search in vain
for the odour of the next dawn
on the patio of the blue house
you breathe in deeply
the lemons of the Aztec lake
froth of an indigenous night.
The tropical plants
hold on tight to the walls
sunflowers spill out of terra cotta
vases and doves
nestle in large pots.
You hear the parrots squawk
amongst the leaves of a jacaranda
its immense flowers blue
this patio resembles a corner of paradise
with its bougainvillea
orange trees and cacti.
You feel an uneasy happiness
paper mâché dolls
strewn over the floor
even if the fresh air brings
the scent of eucalyptus
from surrounding parks.
Has something happened?
I heard shouting
crying and even screaming.
Sitting on my sofa
I look at the portrait of a painted woman
she has her hands resting on her stomach.
In the background
a small stylised tree
gently bends its branches
on a face
that cannot hide its pain.
Nelly Roffé translates from Spanish to French. She has translated poems by Mercedes Roffé, Argentinian poet, Définitions mayas, Les lanternes flottantes (Noroit), Cuban writer based in Barcelona, Rodolfo Häsler, Tête d’ébène (Editions des Forges), Mexicans Pura Lopez Colomé, C’est l’éther, and Myriam Moscona, Celle qui nage, Grenadian Pedro Enriquez, L’écho des oiseaux, and recently the poetry of Luisa Futoransky, an Argentinian living in Paris, Seqüana boueuse, Les Orties de Saorge (ed. de la Grenouillère ) and Graciela Araoz, La Diable. At the moment she is translating the Mexican, Angel MotaBrriozabal, Poemas a Cleeia. Nelly Roffé publishes in literary reviews Exit, Contre-Jour, Estuaire and Translit.
Patrice Desbiens: Two Poems translated by Christine Tipper
THE LAST LOVE POEM
I remember the trains
I remember the trains that shuttled
from right to left to right across the big
windows of your big apartment under the
small Sudbury sky.
Two years if it’s not more and I do not forget
the taste of your neck the taste of your skin
your back as beautiful as a full moon in
The desire to see you and the price of love
and our skins mortgaged to the last drop
I remember the trains that derailed
in your eyes.
The clean-up took time.
In the restaurant we grow old
around a glass of wine.
Outside the scene is always the same:
a bank on one corner a church on the other.
Love avoids us like someone who
owes us money.
You are facing me and
you are on fire inside me and
I desire you.
Your fur coat your smile
Oh animal of my sudden awakenings.
Sunny but cold
your beauty spreads like violins
on burnt snow.
Your eyes cry.
Your eyes lie.
Silence sleeps between us.
In this photo of you you are somewhere
in this fog of colour you
leave in your tank your Oldsmobile
musty and rusty it’s obviously
autumn or perhaps even
the spring it’s a bad photo
of good old times
a polaroid too close to memories.
You comb your hair in the rear-view mirror
I glue you to my eyelids to
see you when I sleep
and suddenly you are outside with
the sun on puddles of water and
the games of the young and you
are as beautiful in memories as in
real life and
we are the only survivors
of the war
is the last love poem
I WAKE UP
for Jean Marc and Brigitte
I wake up to the sound of a shovel scraping the
I wake up to the sound of bells that ring against
I wake up to the sound of cars that slide
in the delta of the streets.
I wake up to the sound of trucks that transport the
paper for the poems I have not yet written.
I wake up to the sound of memories that crush
I wake up to the sound of my thoughts.
The grey of the sky and
the grey of the brain.
The coffee awaits me.
The telephone awaits me.
The mirror awaits me.
The apartment awaits me.
Love awaits me.
Life awaits me.
I wake up to the sound of Sudbury.
I wake up to the sound of your voice that comes from the depths
of my amnesia.
I wake up to the sound of my voice that sighs your
name in the dirty pillow of dawn.
I wake up in the hollow of distance, I wake up
in Sudbury, in the light of your absence.
I wake up to the sound of a shovel scraping the snow
and everything starts again.
Patrice Desbiens is a Francophone Canadian poet. Since making his literary debut in 1972, he has been regarded as one of Canada’s most successful French language poets. He is associated with founding the publishing house ‘Editions Prise de parole’. He has received many awards for his poetry, including the Prix Champlain in 1997 for Un pépin de pomme sur un poêle à bois and the Prix de poésie Terrasses Saint-Sulpice-Estuaire for La Fissure de la fiction in 1998. He was also a finalist for the Governor General’s Prize in 1985 for Dans l’après-midi cardiaque. He has published over 20 poetry collections.
Carole Forget: Extract from Langue de départ*
translated by Christine Tipper
LANGUAGE OF DEPARTURE
there is the riverbank
a definition reveals itself
I translate the sea
the strides when we descend the cliff
which takes all of its sense from one point
of America remains
I went to touch
time its depth
on the pavements I saw
what separates me
the role of the ocean of silence
the angles of stones assemblers
of centuries and the real
I felt less alone
when they shimmer
a narrow street enveloping my shoulders
to soften the echo of empty rooms
brushing against walls my ghosts
the skin intelligible in the aged cities
it was to crack soliloquys
is not a response
invites me to distance myself
is there an appropriate height of walls
in resonance my silhouette moves across
sets like at montpellier in its roundness
certain towns better suit
Published by Editions Triptyque, 2018.*
Carole Forget is a Quebecois living in Montreal. She has published several books of poetry, as well as art books, and has participated in literary events in Quebec and abroad. She has created photograph-based projects, some of which have been exhibited in galleries. Her latest book, Langue de départ, was in part written during a writer’s residency at the Maison de poésie in Amay, Belgium.
Martine Audet: Poem translated by Christine Tipper
My forehead against the pane
I watch that which
regains its place.
I am known
for lying to my sorrow.
I am completely dressed in names.
Do I make real gestures?
I tear from the walls
something of the day
It’s, there, flame,
sense of wind,
perhaps a remedy.
The sky rolls in the ashes of day.
I adhere like a secret to its light.
I say yes with a nod.
All remains in my mouth.
In the garden of the most simple
I confuse trees,
fear and embraces.
Where there is a redrawing of clouds
The marvellous clouds*,
I give asylum to my dead bodies.
I have nothing to pardon,
nothing to destroy.
At the edge of myself,
I turn out the lights.
Born in Montreal in 1961, Martine Audet, since 1996, has published a dozen poetry collections including Orbites, Les Mélancolies, L’amour des objets and, more recently, La société des cendres followed by Des lames entières. She has taken part in various literary and artistic events in Quebec. Several of her poems have been translated into English, Catalan, Spanish, Italian and Czech. Several times finalist for the Governor General’s Poetry Prize, she has received the Alain-Grandbois and Estuaire Prizes. Since 2015 she is a member of the Académie des lettres du Québec.
Lélia Young: Four Poems translated by Christine Tipper
PRAYER AND POETRY
My beating pen
like rain after the ice
under the monotony of a moody sky
My beating pen
in the heart of the night
in a crystalline day
in the depth of my being
A shimmering day
that knows not what to do
with the irrational
planted without remorse
on all the roads
Rain beating in the middle of the night
New music of all the suns
lightly playing on the panes
Spirit freed from all bindings
I look at creation
powerless in my imperfection
I become available without shade
waiting for transparent awakening
The smile of a promise
in the distance of a past tying its laces
opposite broken glass shards
buried by a guilty memory
oblivious to the film that targets it
accusing its victims
The inquisitive look asks
how to direct the march
to the destination point
PRESENCE AND RAISED FIST
The gesture is made of pen and ink
It borders the waves’ froth
Hold the hydra’s head and say no
In the lineage of culture theft
that seeks to install mutism
only language speaks words
that opposes the usurpation
It opens the door of metamorphosis
discovering that which is already
but at which the eye could not see
The truth is on the stage
Ford! Raise the curtain
There is no going back
Books in all their forms create the matter
and become the spark among generations
To create a link to the world through one’s history
is a pact of faith toward one’s existence
Like an obelisk resisting time
an Inukshuk directing the march
language is the cradle of a people
its work and its knowledge
To know how to seize markers
and resist the deadly greed
that wants to erase the survival of a culture
warm with its humanism and science
Hold the head of the hydra and say no
to the theft of one’s identity
Block the danger of lies
by recognizing collective input
Preserve history on its terrain
so that gratitude replaces hatred
and that the indestructible consciousness
writes the unfailing reality
The triumph of the future
The hope of a sunny orb
furnishes its chiselled earth
with witness words and universities
far from lead and disgrace
Remain close crystalline speech
maternal voice that shines with clarity
sparkling sound of our posterity
presence from birth until death
‘Presence and raised fist’ was first published in French in Poems of Resistance under the editorship of Andrée Lacelle, Prise de parole: Sudbury, 2019
THE HUMAN SPECIES AND UNIVERSAL URGENCY
We the human species thirsty for light
we are open to happiness
that could indicate our raison d’être
Like plants we are
turned towards the sun waiting for clouds
their breath in the movement of the wind
rain drops saturated with shivers
We the human species so in love with tenderness
so fearful of evil that could meddle
so feverish when faced with loss
and so disorientated by suffering
We should respect the witnesses
We the human species in this century of violence
who trample over God flouting dignity and life
We the human species stunned by the lies
of disinformation and propaganda
What has happened to us
Do we forget the origin of rebirth
the healthy impulse to believe in eternity
We the human species with our commandments
decorating our hand’s ten fingers
father and mother of civilisation
first human rights
opening so many doors in fragility
We the human species enveloped in an ellipse
where love and justice reside sealed
A revolution in the evolution
of shared animal consciousness
In which mirage do these rescued arms
oppose the fabric of time
and harm the tablets of law
Incompetence cannot reroute history
The doors of the future do not open without a key
energy forges it in responsible hands
Where do they find their arrogance to kill
and believe that a blessing will implant within them
Defamation, murder and greed
are the glue that brings neither recognition
nor a curve that could transform space
The cowardice of hatred lets the plague invade
the healthy bodies of its progeniture ending its future
It hits those who hold out their hand to it
It is the source of its own hecatomb
and does not give itself the right to say why
without its questions falling into a sulphurous abyss
Paralysed it is caught in its own quicksand
We the human species determine the future of the earth
The joy and the misfortune in the name of mystery
We are caught in a spiral shaped day and night
It is up to us to modify without fear or reproach
the fatality inscribed by the ignorance of our ancestors
otherwise the torment will propagate on the human animal
in an inaudible world that is ignorant of its truth
Passing through the sand of the living dead
hearing their maliciously motivated speech
resonating still in the underground currents
What to do with these wrecks gripped by the ankles
They were launched toward the horizon of languages
by fauna that knows not what to do with them
Is there hope for this turbulence
that wants to rid itself of its own spasm
Which poetry then can overcome
this duplicity and lies
that undermine the glorious rhyme
of birth and parting
Lélia Young is a poet and essayist. She has published several poetry collections including Entre l’outil et la matière, (9GREF : Toronto, 1993) ; Si loin des cyprès, (CIDHICA: Montréal, 1999) ; Aquarelles. La paix comme un poème, (du Marais : Montréal, 2006) ; Réverbère, (du Marais : Montréal, 2007) ; as well as J’écris ces mots/ I Write these words, translated by Christine Tipper, (Inanna : Toronto, 2013). In 2009 she co-organised the conference Langages poétiques et poésie francophone en Amérique du Nord whose papers were published by PUL in 2012.
Paul Bélanger: Poem translated by Christine Tipper
Ophelia, who drowned
She inhabits the night that prepares her oblivion
death opens its arms to her
in the water’s lure the skins merge
but we do not know whether one
or the other enters and leaves the flow
I will write to you from my drowning
darkened by green water
I will plunge to the depth of the pond
the body resting without breaking
will pass beyond the waters
so far from all noise and all silence
you will surge from the algae
that hold you back by your hand
I dream of her in her sleep
in the depths not a day
that is not mourning
The swamp pales in contact with her skin
that gives the joy to know
a space with no surface
dead love the earth takes her back
to its hollows
a man speaks in a low voice
from the riverbank the words swallowed
in his throat
return to the origins
outside of time
the body has disappeared
broken by circumstances
that a song beckons
like dawn its night
The distant music of men
no longer touches her she does not hear it
step by step of its solemnity the funeral
eulogy wind dilates the black
of the night while landing
stages advance hands
no longer grasp anything solid
For the end continues still on the pond
its power is above
leaves that speak to it
while falling one after the other
who speaks sees who walks hears
in its drowned shadow
the sun descends on the horizon
in the space of a word the decimated
forest borders her body
caresses the infinite desire to be
The body drifts among the grasses
the algae stick to her skin
and soon they hold her
in their arms that float
carried along by the current
the pale girl smiles her face
swollen by the mirror her stomach
Muse she disappears
and in her memory a few neurons
still remember love
I cry I cry
for as long as
the pond contains tears
all this water makes me cold
and he himself close to joining her
thinks of death like a final wound
such were their years together
in this world
extract from Déblais, to be published by Éditions du Noroît
Paul Bélanger has published several poetry collections and prose works, which have been finalists and winners of important literary prizes. His poems have been translated into English, Spanish and Portuguese. He was a finalist for the Prix Émile-Nelligan and nominated three times for the Prix du Gouverneur-Général. He has been literary director of the Éditions du Noroît since 1991. He is a member of the Académie des lettres du Québec. His most recent titles are Le plus qu’incertain (2017), des amours (2015) – Prix Jaime-Sabines-Gatien-Lapointe, (2018), Replis, chambre de l’arpenteur (2012), Répit (2008) – Prix Alain-Grandbois.
Dominique Gaucher: Poem translated by Maxianne Berger
With its long fingers
the sun moves clouds aside
but one at a time
rips its prudish lace
over a sharp ridge
Spray moistens vision
dries up hope
in one same puff
Behind the mountains unseen
time draws on
An army of conifers
storms the steep slope
tragedies of scree
Veiled the mountains
in silent convoy
At its mooring
a boat pitches sad
White on the coast
homes glisten barely larger
than the tombstones
RIGHT NEAR HERE
against an outsize horizon
Alongside them airy
fireweed dapples its mauve
onto the grey green monochrome
Between sea and rain
wood attempts to dry
Washed-out lobster crate
dragged through the brush
lies there disenchanted
There where it touches the azure
the sea’s trembling blue
wavers at melting in
And stretching out
the thin scar of time
The wharf dominates the mouth
to watch over the cove
On the endless shore
there to die all in a row
Dominique Gaucher was born in Montreal (Quebec), Canada. Prize winning up-coming poet in the 1990’s, during the International Poetry Festival (FIPTR) in Trois-Rivières, she has also won a prize for her prose writing in Laval. She is the author of three books of poetry: Solos, Trajets, passages et autres déménagements d’atomes and Avant de renoncer. She has already been at the head of a literary review, published regularly a chronicle in the Quebec writers Union bulletin (UNEQ) as well as for a radio station and played an important role in preparing the French section of a poetry anthology published in Ireland.
Montreal poet Maxianne Berger is also an editor, a reviewer, an anthologist, and a literary translator. Her poems and articles, in both French and English, have been published in journals and anthologies in the United States, Europe, Oceania, and Japan, as well as in Canada. At the turn of the twenty-first century she became involved in Japanese genres, and started exploring constraint-based writing a few years later. Her fourth book of poetry, the haiku collection Winnows, brings together these two approaches: it is a radical erasure of Moby Dick.
Gérald Gaudet: Poem translated by Christine Tipper
THE OUTSIDE GATHERED INSIDE HIM
With the light
That protects the child
Feelings of origins
The sounds shattering
Their falsity ever more
A horse rasping
Like the lost charm of a long gone
Stroll through history
With its poems and its tales
Vastness of the sea
My thoughts resemble music
To an ignorant ear
It sounds like children
Gathering sea shells
With their finger tips
Making a noise
At the first line
Already they were lost
The song the sea sang to them
A sweet and fleeting song
That escapes memory
And that came towards them laughing
With all the beginnings
I say to myself:
Why do I not try that
Why not simply sit there
Like a sea shell
In a child’s hand
In a human gesture
A shell from the sea
In the vastness
There’s a word
The first or last
It withdraws and lives elsewhere
So close, warm and tender,
Close to the light
Ready for anything
For a gift, a letting go
The word waits
He waits for another word
Will it come from me
In a rare moment
Solemn and shared
A moment that prolongs the word between us
In a sure decision
To be held on to of all that
As for the longing to live on
And it resembles a victory
Filled with fear and desire
When all mixes into the wave
It has the effect of a game
One that excludes all others
The outside gathered inside him
That which spreads, overturns
Causes to fall and begins
That without proof
That which tires not
That which passes not
But forgets and dares
The folly of the everyday
Freed from himself
Before the evidence of a shift
That which at the same time
Exposes and forces
Demands and menaces
Overflows in fact
To say nothing more
And yet to talk
We chew on our sadness
It rolls in our mouths
He feels unwell, wants to turn back
Upright, elegant and brutal
Like a child who recites his prayers
Will it be possible to swallow everything?
Would we notice it
If we could follow my thoughts
If we saw them in harmony with the wave’s emotion
With this spirit that fires me
When I am
In a phrase from Nicole Brossard
A page of Victor-Lévy Beaulieu
Or a song by Ginette Reno
No longer be there
Only be in harmony with the movement
Of a voice that carries
Breath of fresh air
Zest for life
To have a go, be alone with it, full of pride
I see very clearly
The cliffs and the clamour
I see snow in the eyes of those who watch me
If I could disappear
Like a saying that does not allow itself to be retained
That does not return
That does not want to have the generosity
To insist to reappear
A thought, a look
Far away, then placed before you
While remaining unrecognisable
With stars in your eyes
Gorged on energy
Expression of a time that finds again
Its strengths and impressions
More passionate than a hand placed there on your sex
Who knows more than you about the workings of the world
Beyond the kitchens and salons,
Further than all that is viscous spreads
Like a thick lava
And you cry
Gérald Gaudet, a poet, essayist and literary critic and interviewer, has published over a dozen works including a selection of interviews Voix d’écrivains (Québec-Amérique, 1985) and poetry collections including Lignes de nuit (L’Hexagone, 1986). Editor of the poetry review Estuaire from 1985-93, he was also President of the Société des Écrivains de la Mauricie from 1993-96 and 2004-08. In 1995 la Fiction de l’âme was a finalist in the Prix du Gouverneur Général and was awarded the Grand Prix de littérature de la Ville de Trois-Rivières. He is involved with the Trois-Rivières International Poetry Festival. He regularly contributes to Exit, a poetry review. In 2019 he published a collection of interviews about creativity and the literary essay called Aimer penser (Nota bene).