Peter Riley on André du Bouchet

André du Bouchet
Openwork: poetry and prose.
Selected, translated and presented by Paul Auster and Hoyt Rogers.

Yale University Press | Hardcover 364pp. (Bilingual text) |$26.00/£16.99


André du BouchetANDRÉ DU BOUCHET’s is the most difficult poetry to describe or characterise; it eludes identification from start to finish and you’re liable to end up speaking entirely in negatives. The poetry doesn’t describe or recount or expound; it doesn’t narrate or philosophise; it never touches politics or society and is essentially a poetry of the self but it also never declares the self intimately or circumstantially and the poet defines it as a poetry of the non-self; it isn’t (or is it?) abstract or minimalist or surrealist or symbolist; it isn’t formal or lyrical or rhetorical or experimental; its language is both articulated and disjunct … And then you notice that in fact the poetry can and does do most of those things, but in a particular way which prevents an actual discourse from forming in the sense of a relationship with the world. But looked at differently, a discourse is exactly what it is. What then is the poetry like, what does the poet do?

Mostly he goes on walks, and the walks are real walks but the area in which he walks — and where the poetry takes place whether walking or not — is a narrowed, enclosed territory. It clearly is the real world but reduced to a prescribed selection of entities heavy with unspoken implications, as if the real world has become a set of illegible signs. The most obvious indication of this is the way the poetry is dominated by a small number of words which become something like the poet’s personal iconostasis: mountain, air, stone, wind, fire, sun, white, wall, light/dark, footstep, ground, room, and others including some which only dominate one poem or a phase of the poetry. Many of them can be variously interior or exterior, static or dynamic, can be the starting point or the goal of a poem’s progress. There is hardly a poem not founded on these entities, and the greatest among them is the word “mountain”.

 (… ctd. here in the Fortnightly Review)

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