Yves Bonnefoy

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1.
Passer-By, These Are Words
Passer-by, these are words. But instead of reading
I want you to listen: to this frail
Voice like that of letters eaten by grass.
...
2.
The house where I was born (01)
I woke up, it was the house where I was born,
Sea foam splashed against the rock,
Not a single bird, only the wind to open and close the wave,
Everywhere on the horizon the smell of ashes,
As if the hills were hiding a fire
That somewhere else was burning up a universe.
I went onto the veranda, the table was set,
The water knocked against the legs of the table, the sideboard.
And yet she had to come in, the faceless one,
The one I knew was shaking the door
In the hall, near the darkened staircase, but in vain,
So high had the water already risen in the room.
I took the handle, it was hard to turn,
I could almost hear the noises of the other shore,
The laughter of the children playing in the tall grass,
The games of the others, always the others, in their joy.
...
3.
The house where I was born (02)
I woke up, it was the house where I was born.
It was raining softly in all the rooms,
I went from one to another, looking at
The water that shone on the mirrors
Piled up everywhere, some broken or even
Pushed between the furniture and the walls.
It was from these reflections that sometimes a face
Would emerge, laughing, of a gentleness
That was different from what the world is.
And, with a hesitant hand, I touched in the image
The tossled hair of the goddess,
Beneath the veil of the water
I could see the sad, distracted face of a little girl.
Bewilderment between being and not being,
Hand that is reluctant to touch the mist,
Then I listened as the laughter faded away
In the halls of the empty house.
Here nothing but forever the gift of the dream,
The outstretched hand that does not cross
The fast flowing water where memories vanish.
...
4.
The house where I was born (03)
I woke up, it was the house where I was born,
It was night, trees were crowding
On all sides around our door,
I was alone on the doorstep in the cold wind,
No, not alone, for two huge beings
Were speaking to each other above me, through me.
One, behind, an old woman, stooped, mean,
The other standing upright outside like a lamp,
Beautiful, holding the cup that had been offered her,
Drinking greedily to calm her thirst.
Did I think to mock her, surely not,
Rather I let out a cry of love
But with the strangeness of despair,
And the poison ran throughout my body,
Ceres, mocked, broke the one who loved her.
Thus speaks the life walled up in life today.
...
5.
The house where I was born (04)
Another time.
It was still night. Water slid
Silently on the black ground,
And I knew that my only task would be
To remember, and I laughed,
I bent down, I took from the mud
A pile of branches and leaves,
I lifted up the whole dripping mass
In arms I held close to my heart.
What to do with this wood where
The sound of color rose from so much absence,
It hardly mattered, I went in haste, looking for
At least some kind of shed, beneath the load
Of branches that were full of
Rough edges, stabbing pains, points, cries.

And voices that cast shadows on the road,
Or called to me, and, my heart beating fast,
I turned around to face the empty road.
...

Comments

Fabrizio Frosini 15 May 2018
Yves Jean Bonnefoy, poet and essayist, born 24 June 1923; died 1 July 2016. “I would like to bring together, almost identify, poetry and hope.” Poet, essayist, art and literary critic, translator and editor, Yves Bonnefoy sought throughout to make clear the ground on which this hopefulness was to be built.
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Fabrizio Frosini 15 May 2018
Bonnefoy spent his career contesting the way that we tend to replace the reality of things and other people with an image or concept, which deprives us of a more direct and immediate experience he called the experience of “presence”, in which one has a fleeting apprehension of the essential oneness of all being. Supreme poet of the earth, Bonnefoy sought to bring a world smothered by abstraction back to life:
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Fabrizio Frosini 15 May 2018
God who are not, put your hand on our shoulder, Rough-cast our body with the weight of your return, Finish blending our souls with these stars, These woods, these bird cries, these shadows and these days. Give yourself up in us the way fruit tears apart, Have us disappear in you. Reveal to us The mysterious meaning in what is merely simple And would have fallen without fire in words without love.
10 0 Reply
Fabrizio Frosini 15 May 2018
Bonnefoy was elected to the Collège de France in 1981, the first poet since Paul Valéry. Often spoken of as a potential Nobel prizewinner, he received many literary awards, doctorates and other honours.
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