Yves Bonnefoy and the Obscure Possibility of the Earth

  • Michael Edwards


Near the beginning of Yves Bonnefoy’s Dans le leurre du seuil of 1975, there are two lines,

Et d’où ce souvenir qui serre le coeur

De la barque d’un autre été au ras des herbes?

which might themselves, in their context, ‘wring’ or ‘oppress’ the heart. Word for word they go: ‘And whence this memory that oppresses the heart/of the boat of another summer level with the grasses?’, except that the French language can still manage whence without sounding archaic and, more importantly, the first line, occurring as it does in a verse paragraph of alexandrines and decasyllabics, is a kind of wounded alexandrine, its second half failing after the fifth of its expected six syllables. This is one of the ways in which Bonnefoy refuses to allow the poetry its perfection (the English iambic pentameter is less easily damaged, I fancy, without being destroyed), and I shall consider his reasons later. What is important for the moment is that boat at the limit of the earth and the water, unmoving though ready for movement, which owes its clarity yet also its mystery to the memory that causes it to appear.


Lightning Flash Dark Water Lightning Bolt Irreducible Word Modern Poetry 
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Copyright information

© Michael Edwards 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Edwards
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WarwickUK

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