PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
Digital Access to PN Review
Access the latest issues, plus back issues of PN Review with Exact Editions For PN Review subscribers: access the PN Review digital archive via the Exact Editions app Exactly or the Exact Editions website, you will first need to know your PN Review ID number. read more
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Monthly Carcanet Books
Next Issue

This report is taken from PN Review 214, Volume 40 Number 2, November - December 2013.

Soupault/Gâteau Mark Dow
Back in the 1990s my friend Gregg Ellis turned me on to Philippe Soupault. My favourite short Soupault poem ever since -  probably because I can get a handle on it -  has been 'A Boire':

Si le monde était un gâteau
la mer de l'encre noire
et tous les arbres des lampadaires
qu'est-ce que nous resterait à boire?

If the world were cake
the seas black ink
and all the trees streetlamps
what would be left for us to drink?

Recently I picked up Jeffrey Yang's first book, An Aquarium (2008), and found this epigraph to one of his concentrated, aquatic poems ('Quincunciall'):

If all the trees were pens, the oceans ink…
                                             -  Surah Luqman Verse 27

It's from a verse in the Koran: 'And if all the trees on earth were pens and the Ocean were ink, with seven Oceans behind it to add to its supply, yet would not the Words of Allah be exhausted in the writing…' Was this Soupault's source? And now Ellis tells me that Soupault's own first book of poems, published in 1917, is entitled Aquarium.

Last spring, the recently revived New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority's 'Poetry in Motion' series displayed a few lines from Yang's second, more diffuse book. The day I noticed, they were obscured by a flyer from someone called 'KEANO / Spiritual Consultant / Powerful Master in Love'. Entrepreneurs, musicians, and missionaries sometimes insert their flyers or postcards ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image