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Three poems by Jean-Claude Renard

April 7, 2011

translated by Hélène Cardona

 

Incantation du sang

À peine au bord du puits,
Ce jeune feu de ceps allumé sur la neige,
Devant la mer,
Quel sang beau comme un abricot
Parle-t-il de sa soif d’un mystère, d’un sacre, d’une métamorphose
Qui n’arment le désire qu’en l’habitant déjà,
Lorsque la mort l’éveille
De ce qu’il doit sans trêve, pour sortir de soi-même et entrer dans soi-même
En s’inventant sans cesse,
Accueillir et fonder comme une ville neuve,
Une commune langue,
Le seul espoir de demeurer vivant puis de combler de sens, partout, sous la falaise,
Les labyrinthes vides,
—Et dans ce voeu d’atteindre la plénitude d’être,
Dans ce pur mouvement de sève et de rivière où peut-être mûrit une fête essentielle,
Lui donnent le pouvoir, s’ils sont plus que ses fables,
D’accomplir avec eux la création du monde?

La braise et la rivière: poèmes et proses (Éditions du Seuil, c1969)

*

Blood Incantation

Barely by the well
This young fire of vinestocks lit on snow,
Facing the sea,
What blood beautiful as an apricot
Speaks of its thirst for a mystery, consecration, metamorphosis,
Which only arm desire by already inhabiting it,
When death awakens it,
With what it relentlessly must, to quit itself and enter itself,
Inventing itself incessantly,
Welcome and found like a new city
A common language,
The only hope able to survive then fill with meaning, everywhere, under the cliff,
The empty labyrinths,
—And in this vow to reach plenitude of being,
In this pure movement of sap and river where perhaps an essential feast ripens,
Do they give it the power, if they are more than its fables,
To achieve with them the creation of the world?

* * *

Parole 1

La même fête patiente sous les tilleuls roses,
Dans la parole d’interrogation.
J’oserai veiller près des pierres.
Quand l’enfance les aura lavées,
Elles prophétiseront le sacre.
Déjà, dans le secret simple des îles,
Un seul sanctuaire rassemble,
Comme de grandes laines fraîches et vertes,
Toutes figures du dieu sur la mer.
Les oiseaux rusent.
Mais quel corps n’a prescience qu’un texte très blanc dans le sable
Indique le savoir d’être un?
S’il s’avance un peu,
L’eau habite la mort.

*

Spoken Word 1

The same feast awaits beneath pink linden trees,
In the word of questioning.
I will dare keep watch by the stones.
When childhood has bathed them
They will prophesy the sacrament.
Already in the simple secret of the islands
A single sanctuary gathers,
Like great fleeces cool and green,
All figures of the god upon the sea.
Birds use cunning.
But what being doesn’t foresee that a very white text in the sand
Indicates the knowledge of oneness?
If he moves slightly forward,
Water inhabits death.

* * *

Parole 2

La grêve brûlée
(Mais chaque fois les oiseaux reviennent)
D’autres algues montent de la mer.
Elles tracent les signes qui luisent – qui s’interrogent.
Je ne cesserai pas d’y marcher.
S’enfouir dans le silence du sable,
Comme les bucardes,
Sans chercher la demeure possible: l’éventuel lieu d’alliance,
Abîme l’être.
Quand l’eau dégage la caverne,
—S’il n’y a rien
N’est pas une preuve.
Plus tard (ailleurs dans l’identique espace)
La parole peut encore sourdre,
Attirer encore les racines
—Jusqu’à la fin.
Même le vide prodigue une naissance.

*

Spoken Word 2

Burned strand
(But each time the birds return)
More seaweed rises from the sea.
It traces glistening, questioning signs.
I will forever walk there.
To bury oneself in the sand’s silence,
Like cockles,
Without seeking the possible dwelling: the potential place of alliance,
Damages being.
When the water clears the cave
—If there is nothing,
That’s no proof.
Later (elsewhere in the selfsame space)
The spoken word may still rise,
Still lure the roots,
—Until the end.
Even emptiness is prodigal with birth.


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Jean-Claude Renard (1922-2002), born in Pontoise and educated at the Sorbonne, was a prolific French poet and writer. His work is filled with mystery and spirituality. He won the Prix Sainte-Beuve (1966), the Golden Eagle of Poetry (1970), the Prix Max Jacob (1974), the prix Guillaume Apollinaire (1978), the Grand Prix de poésie de l’Académie française in 1988 and the Prix Goncourt de la poésie in 1991. He was literary director of Editions du Seuil and Editions Casterman. His books include Notes sur la poésie (Le Seuil 1970), Le Dieu de Nuit (Le Seuil 1973), Notes sur la foi (Gallimard 1973), La Lumière du Silence (le Seuil 1973), Dix runes d’été (Mercure de France 1994), and Ce puits que rien n’épuise (Le Seuil 1993). He also wrote many essays.

A citizen of the U.S., France and Spain, Hélène Cardona (website) is a poet, actor and translator. She studied English Philology in Cambridge; Spanish at the International Universities of Santander and Baeza; and German at the Goethe Institute in Bremen. She writes and translates in English, French and Spanish. She attended Hamilton College, New York, where she taught French and Spanish, and the Sorbonne, where she wrote her thesis on Henry James for her Master’s in American Literature. She worked as a translator/interpreter for the Canadian Embassy and the French Chamber of Commerce and taught at the Ecole Bilingue in Paris and LMU in Los Angeles. She is the author of the bilingual collections Life In Suspension, forthcoming from Tupelo Press, The Astonished Universe (Red Hen Press) and Breeze Rider forthcoming from Salmon Poetry.

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  1. May 9, 2011 at 3:32 pm
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