Monday poetry: today, “between the yards and the willows”

How not to think of a balance sheet? Frédéric Jacques Temple’s collection the endless hunt, appears in the mythical poetry / Gallimard collection when the author, born on August 18, 1921 in Montpellier, is at the dawn of his hundred years. The book brings together no less than seven collections, giving an overview of Temple’s literary journey from the War poems written in the 1940s to the present day.

Close to Cendrars, Henry Miller, Malaparte, Lawrence Durrell, Frédéric Jacques Temple, however, has always been a solitary author, who has been wary of all movements. His subject is, moreover, his own life: his work is exclusively autobiographical, and all his texts have a connection with the “Trade which he maintains in collector with plants, stones or books”, observes Claude Leroy in his preface. For Temple, he still recalls, “Poetry is first of all emotion”, away from all the formalist avant-garde. The book is of course also echoed the author’s numerous journeys, which nevertheless places him in a filiation, that of the great American backpacking authors. From these experiences on the road he draws what he calls a “Unrest without borders”, a formula which could represent a precipitate of all the work of Temple.

Here is the unknown, a poem from the collection Deep Countries originally published in 2011 by Obsidian editions.


The Unknown

One day I took the old road
through lavender wasteland
to the village
where lies under a slab
in the fawn Ruthenian grebe
father father father my father

I don’t know his face
the color of his eyes
if he had an emperor’s beard
or the Gallic nobles
peasants in blue jackets
who offered to my childhood
their scent of alfalfa and milk

Ringed the same bell for me
that in the dreary day of its death knell
evening or morning
from a still winter of snow
dotted with crows
or a summer of red wheat
in poppies with fanfare

I walked on the grass
from its customary banks
between the yards and the willows
breathing the dark smell
bright trout

and in the fayards flew away
the mocking laugh of the woodpecker
that I hadn’t forgotten

Frédéric Jacques Temple, Infinite Hunting and other poems, ed. Gallimard, Poetry collection, 368 pages, 9.50 euros.


Guillaume Lecaplain

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