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Erasing Mallarmé

March 9, 2011 11 comments

by Lynne Shapiro

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.

 

Autre Éventail

  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

Her Fan

                  that I may plunge
Pathless

To

  twilight


          the horizon

                   shivering




Can you feel

       the corner
                         fold!                          

                   pink
            on golden eves is
      white
against             fire.


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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.

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Replenish

July 2, 2008 4 comments

A windless freeze
sets the lake early this year,
black ice.

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
raucous food.

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

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