I am staying in a loft in Bushwick, Brooklyn that has many intriguing books I sometimes pull from the shelves. One that has pierced my heart is “Selected Poems” by renowned French poet René Char, who I never read before.
Char is sometimes referred to as a “surrealist” which may be why I was phobic before I read him, but now that I have read him I am as awestruck as I was the first times I read Tomas Tranströmer.
It’s complex but it is not opaque. (post-modern)
It is not false, and perhaps most amazingly, it is not dark. I would call it, “lamenting ecstatic.” Char’s poems have gravity, are made of something ancient, heavy, real–are anchors that (I at least) want to be weighted by, brought to the bottom, the quiet sea-floor, see his beautiful ruins.
Williams Carlos Williams is quoted, in the dedication page:
You are a poet who believes
in the power of beauty
to right all wrongs.
I believe it also.
Here’s the Char poem I wanted to share with you today:
We suddenly got too close to something from which we’d been kept at a mysteriously favorable and measured distance. Since then, corrosion. Our headrest has disappeared.
It is unbearable to feel oneself a committed and impotent part of beauty that is dying through the fault of others. Committed in one’s breast and impotent in the movement of ones mind.
If what I show you and what I give you seem less to you than what I hide,
my weighing is poor, my reaping ineffectual.
You are, poem, a wayside altar of darkness on my too exposed face. My splendor and my suffering have slipped between the two.
I must cast off life’s ugly accumulation and find again the gaze that loved it enough in the beginning to display its foundation. What is left for me to live exists in this assault, this tremor.