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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Poèmes sarments, noués par la vie

by Alain Freixe

Jean-Vincent Verdonnet: Twining Life Shoots For a Poetic Testament

Translated Friday 5 October 2012, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Derek Hanson

Dernier fagot (Last Bundle of Firewood), La Rougerie, 2012.

Jean-Vincent Verdonnet has bound these poems in a bundle as one would do with firewood. These he knows to be his last poems. For he is getting on in years, being now in the twilight of a life spent in poetry. Of Jean-Vincent Verdonnet’s poetry Yves Bonnefoy said that it helped “the land to live on, and the language to be more than the rubble of words in their haphazard fallout,” and indeed the poet has been exemplary in all manner of respects. Rougerie, his faithful publishers, have just published his last “bundle”.

I like this image of poems as vine stems bound into a bundle by the poet, a swathe offered to the readers in order that they set it ablaze by their own fervent reading: heat and light to fend off all the onslaughts of the cold in the heart of all darkness.

Each and every poem has resounded for me with “the voice of an absent light”. Only close your eyes, and you will hear it. And if you hear it, you will catch a glimpse of it. Raise your eyes from the book and a door will open, like the door to the back garden, revealing the mental image of a bird “inebriated by the sky (…), fanning out the evening with its wing”, or the sun at its fiery work with its invisible “poker in the waters of the lake”, or again “the autumn pallor / that (lingers) in the alleys mourning the neglected orchard”. And the door then opens to time for an instant as silence itself breaks. In comes eternity, “that fleeting radiance of being”, as Jean-Vincent wrote in 1987 - in for a short visit where being and vision coalesce in a flash of ravishment. Then separation and distance once more take over, the road ahead stretches on, all trails wiped out. If “nothing can express the soul better than the frail fire of a rose/ the sign of all departures”, what is bound again in this “Last Bundle”, and makes itself heard, is the melody of a soul. The soul is on the road, as Gilles Deleuze would say. And indeed, in this last collection of Verdonnet’s, one can hear its now calm and confident step as it nears “the land / where sleep is never to end (…) and “the snow’s compassion” awaits the traveller.

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