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This review is taken from PN Review 224, Volume 41 Number 6, July - August 2015.

Breaking the Frozen Images andré: du bouchet, Openwork: Poetry and Prose, translated by Paul Auster and Hoyt Rogers (Yale University Press) £16.99

André du Bouchet is the least translated of a ‘school’ of poets commonly associated with the magazine L’Éphémère (1966–72), which includes Jacques Dupin and Yves Bonnefoy. Their first poetic manifestations came during or shortly after the Second World War and they shared an intense engagement with phenomenology and contemporary artists, in particular Giacometti. For each of them poetic creation was intensely problematic; their natural kin is rather Celan (who also contributed to L’Éphémère) and Char’s poésie de la poésie. (Char, du Bouchet’s poetic mentor, inflicted considerable trauma by entering into a passionate affair with du Bouchet’s then wife, Tina Jolas.) Bonnefoy employed the apparatus of Surrealism and fertility myth to create an allegory of poetic creation in Douve. For Dupin, the poem became the record of its own impossibility in metaphors of fire, granite, destruction and abjection. The landscapes of this ‘school’ are therefore at once internal and external, records of the psychology of creation couched in metaphors of the natural world.

Among them, du Bouchet is surely the most difficult. I have returned over the years to Dans la chaleur vacante, on each occasion hearing a voice of undeniable authority speaking words that made no sense to me. The production of an anthology bringing together early poems and notebooks and late poems from 1986 to 1996 – du Bouchet died in 2001 – with extracts from the two classic volumes Dans la chaleur vacante (1961) and Ou le soleil (1968) is therefore of considerable interest. The two translators here were long-standing ...


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