My initial interest in erasure was in the practice itself; I wanted to “white out” or unravel a poem to experience the unique feel of simultaneously reading and writing. I was, curious about how the process differed when working with a short poem (this one) or a far longer poem such as John Ashbery’s “Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror”. (The Ashbery poem led to a larger, on-going project.) As well, I was interested in exploring the difference between “whiting out” and “crossing out” from both the standpoint of process and the visual effect, the presence of marks and the absence of marks/the presence of space. This led to my choice of “whiting out” a Mallarme poem because of his revolutionary use of blank space and careful placement of words. I am struck by the visual variation, created by chance, when the erasure and its translation (by Peter and Mary Ann Caws, from Stéphane Mallarmé’s Selected Poetry and Prose, New Directions Paperbook, 1982) are placed side by side; an illustration of the difference between language structures less obvious in the original.
Some consider Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898), French poet and critic, to be the most difficult French author to translate. I first encountered his work in a Surrealist Literature class in college. My interest in his work and the relationship between artists and writers continued into my graduate studies and beyond.
pour que je plonge sans chemin dans ta main de crepuscule L’horizon frissonne Sens-tu le coin pli! des roses sur les soirs d’or Ce blanc Contre le feu
that I may plunge Pathless To twilight the horizon shivering Can you feel the corner fold! pink on golden eves is white against fire.
Lynne Shapiro lives and writes in Hoboken, New Jersey, not far from the Community College and Charter School where she currently teaches. Her poem “Replenish” was published in qarrtsiluni’s Water Issue. She drinks her morning coffee from a qarrtsiluni cup.
A windless freeze
sets the lake early this year,
Stare down hard
into this watery clearing
and see all the way to springtime:
leaves become trees that sway,
fish crouch in their bones awaiting
the iridescent thaw,
pollen, roe, and eggs hatch into
I watch my husband and son skate
in and out of another winter,
their itineraries marked in scrapings,
accompanied by croaking ice
and the shadow of crows.
by Lynne Shapiro