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This review is taken from PN Review 170, Volume 32 Number 6, July - August 2006.

PENSIVE RIFFS JACQUES RÉDA, Treading Lightly, translated by Jennie Feldman (Anvil) £ 8.95

Time was, English-language poets kept a better eye on what was happening in Parisian poetic circles. Perhaps the new French poetry is not as interesting to English readers as its modernist precursor or perhaps over-exposure of and over-emphasis on French poets has dulled interest, but these hardly excuse the lack of attention paid to a poet of Jacques Réda's credentials and influence. He has had only two small-press books in English - The Ruins of Paris, published in 1996, and The Party Is Over, published in 1983 - before the arrival of Jennie Feldman's Treading Lightly. Born in 1929, poet, novelist, translator, editor and jazz critic Réda is a singular influence in French letters and, as editor of the Nouvelle revue française from 1987 until 1995, was a key player in what has been called the 'new lyricism' in French poetry. Here, drawing on poems from three of Réda's earliest major works, Amen (1968), Récitatif (1970) and La Tourne (1975), poet Feldman presents some of his most famous poems in a slim, introductory edition.

Réda's poetic forms and voicings are heavily influenced by the rhythms and ideas of jazz. There is always a difficulty when using musical metaphors to describe poetic workings - especially with the idea of 'singing', something often applied to Derek Walcott's work, for instance - because these kinds of terms are usually poorly defined. Feldman's introduction riffs on the concept of 'le swing' in Réda's ...


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