Le paradis des apparences (2004)
For as Far as the Eye Can See (Biblioasis, 2013)
by Robert Melançon, tr. Judith Cowan
Genre: Poetry & poetry translation.
The book consists of 144 12-line sonnets, intricately based upon the truncated form, the sonnets lacking a concluding couplet, but the book’s overarching structure of 12×12 invigorating.
Melançon’s explains this in sonnet 36:
Tout doit tenir en douze vers – un sonnet allégé …
Je m’en tiens au paradis des apparences :
Je trace un rectangle de douze lignes;
C’est une fenêtre par laquelle je regarde
Tout ce qui apparaît, qui n’a lieu qu’une fois.
Which Judith Cowan translates as:
It all has to fit into twelve lines—a lesser sonnet …
So I shall settle for the paradise of what I see:
I trace this rectangle of twelve lines and
make of it a window through which to observe
all that appears, and that happens only once.
Why I recommend this book:
Poetry with magnificent control of content, allusion, thematic integrations, form, metre, and of the sound of language; the fine interplay of sound, elevated further, because unbound, by the coherence of form. I first came to Melançon’s work through Donald McGrath’s prize-winning translation of Elégie écrite dans le parc Notre-Dame-de-Grâce in The Malahat Review 188 (2014). It had an immediate impact on me, for I lived two blocks from the park for many years, and the poem spoke to me with the reality of the place and the effect of its actuality on one’s thought when there.
Guest reviewer’s latest title or project:
Covenant, my second book of poetry, was completed in March 2015. My third book of poetry, Constellations of Desire, is in progress.
Hendrik Slegtenhorst has been previously featured on Reading Recommendations.