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from ‘Blind Distance’.

By PIERRE CHAPPUIS.

Translations by John Taylor.

Facing the Storm

FACING THE STORM, at the edge of emptiness, the fiery team of horses surges forth from the fountain basin. All of a sudden, the air has cooled. The neighing of the wind in the oaks drowns out the noise of the waterfall. From the horizon, clouds are flowing upwards. Glimmers, bounds, fleeing every which way just ahead of the gust beating down furiously at the wheat, the forests, the poplars with their disheveled manes. The eyes blur. Big drops of rain are falling on the terrace where the whirlwinds have ceased. The fountain team rears up in vain, the lightning bolt rips in vain the canvas cloth of the twilight. Behind the theater of the storm, daylight is tipping over into the darkness.

Face à l’orage

Face à l’orage, en bordure du vide, l’attelage fougueux émerge du bassin. D’un coup, l’air a fraîchi. Les hennissements du vent dans les chênes couvrent le bruit de la cas- cade. De l’horizon monte un flot de nuages. Lueurs, bondissements, fuite en tous sens devant la rafale acharnée sur les blés, les forêts, les peupliers aux crinières défaites. La vue se brouille. Sur la terrasse où les tourbillons ont cessé tombent de grosses gouttes de pluie. L’attelage de la fontaine se cabre en vain, la foudre déchire en vain la toile du crépuscule. Derrière le théâtre de l’orage, le jour verse dans les ténèbres.

Empty-Eyed

AGAINST THE SUNLIGHT, down below, the plain vanishes, an expanse crossed by isthmuses. Water there? No. No shimmering water. The sunlight dwells up in the highlands. A lifeless zone ahead of me, my searching eyes gazing emptily from the nearby hill to the nearby oak woods, to the cliffs closing off the horizon. Return, take up the same position, return again. And again.

À vide

À contre-jour, en abîme, la plaine disparaît, nappe traversée d’isthmes. D’eau là, non, point d’eau qui miroite. Le soleil habite les lieux élevés. Zone sans vie devant moi, regard lancé à vide, de la colline à la chênaie proches, aux rochers fermant l’horizon. Revenir, reprendre poste, revenir encore. Une autre fois encore.

Neighboring nor Faraway

FROM ONE EDGE to another. In the open air (the same pillars), in light flowing among the trees. Paths and crossroads burrow themselves away (the same nave if the screens of vegetation were taken away); the hour is turning round and round. Everywhere under the gray sky run the same paths cut straight through the forest (the next footsteps lighter), everywhere, outdoors (the fields, the vineyard-covered slopes bristling, and the water), everywhere curtains, rows of trees linking farms and localities, draw back, come back together.

Voisins ni lointains

D’un bord à l’autre. À ciel ouvert (les mêmes piliers), dans un flot de lumière circulant entre les arbres. Les chemins, les croisées s’enfouissent (la même nef, ôtés les para- vents de verdure) ; l’heure tourne sur elle-même. Partout, sous le ciel gris, courent les mêmes tranchées (plus légers, les pas suivants), partout, au dehors (les champs, les coteaux de vigne se hérissant, et l’eau), partout des rideaux, des lignes d’arbres reliant fermes et lieux-dits s’écartent, se rejoignent.

Blind Distance

ALL OF A sudden I enter the realm of winter (the sinking sun), a serene, smoothed out valley closed off by highlands (snow, plateau as a turning hub). Bouncily stepping along, I am hiking on staked out, picketed paths, the mirrors of January at hand. Boundary marking, expanse. Clear, new, large (blinding whiteness reigning alone), the cold is invading me. Just blossoming through the snow, nervures of a different land emerge (the mountains, the aerial plateaus soon beyond reach), seed and stubble lying in more or less straight lines, more or less thwarted by old wagon ruts, and run onwards in the wind.

Distance aveugle

J’entre d’un coup dans l’aire de l’hiver (le soleil, plongeant), vallée aplanie et sereine que ferment des lieux élevés (la neige, plateau tournant). Marchant à pas rebondis, je vais par les chemins bordés de pieux et de palis, les miroirs de janvier à portée de la main. Bornage, étendue. Le froid m’investit, clair, neuf, large (la blancheur seule régnant, aveuglante). À fleur de neige, nervures d’un pays autre, émergeant (hors de portée, bientôt, les montagnes, les plateaux aériens), éteules et semis plus ou moins rectilignes, plus ou moins contrariés par les ornières anciennes des chars courent sous le vent.

Another Morning

HOLLOWS OF SHADOW and cold. The crunching snow. Joyous voices bursting out, probably near the swamp where people are skating. The almost frozen stream apparently leads there across the fields (scissure, striature). From the cold-numbed valley to the mountains, to the hills already bathed in sunlight, nothing known or unknown, similar or dissimilar. Exact, but not quite exact: pink variant of the preceding morning.

Autre matin

Creux d’ombre et de froid. La neige crisse. Joyeux éclats de voix, sans doute, près du marais où l’on patine. Y mènerait, à travers champs (lézarde, zébrure), le ruisseau quasi gelé. De la vallée transie aux montagnes, aux collines déjà dans le soleil, rien de reconnu ni d’inconnu, de semblable ni de dissemblable. Juste, mais non pas au plus juste : variante rose du précédent.

Blind in the Whiteness

AGAIN AGAINST THE wind (the streaks in the soil, the tracks left by gusts), with the forest set back to my right, I am climbing. Rebounds, in all directions. Blind in the whiteness, I am hiking across a plain. The snow-covered hedges no longer divide it up, nor the snowdrift barriers placed along the roads, removable openwork fences for the emptiness. (Within the whiteness, unbound.)

Aveugle dans le blanc

De nouveau contre le vent (les stries au sol, l’empreinte des rafales), la forêt en retrait à ma droite, je monte. Rebonds, en tous sens. C’est une plaine où je marche, aveugle dans le blanc. Les haies enneigées ne la cloisonnent plus, ni les palis posés le long des routes, amovibles claires-voies pour le vide. (Dans le blanc, délié.)


chappuissqPierre Chappuis was born in Tavannes (Canton Bern), Switzerland, in 1930. He is an essential French-language poet in a generation that includes Philippe Jaccottet, Yves Bonnefoy, André du Bouchet, Jacques Dupin, and Jacques Réda. His many published works include collections of critical essays, poetic prose, and poetry. Among his most recent books, all published by the Éditions José Corti, are Dans la foulée (2007), Comme un léger sommeil (2009), and Muettes emergences (2011). Distance aveugle (2000) and À la portée de la voix (2002), also brought out by Corti, are collections of short poetic prose. For his writing, he has won the two most prestigious Swiss literary prizes: the Schiller Prize in 1997 and the Grand Prix C.F. Ramuz in 2005. He lives in Neuchâtel.

John Taylor has recently translated books by Jacques Dupin (Of Flies and Monkeys, Bitter Oleander Press), Philippe Jaccottet (And, Nonetheless, Chelsea), Pierre-Albert Jourdan (The Straw Sandals, Chelsea), Louis Calaferte (The Violet Blood of the Amethyst, Chelsea), and José-Flore Tappy (Sheds, Bitter Oleander Press). In 2013, he won the Raiziss-de Palchi Translation Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets for his project to translate the Italian Poet Lorenzo Calogero. His most recent collection of personal writings is If Night is Falling, published by the Bitter Oleander Press in 2012. He is a contributing editor of The Fortnightly Review and the author of the three-volume essay collection, Paths to Contemporary French Literature (Transaction), and Into the Heart of European Poetry (Transaction). Born in Des Moines in 1952, Taylor has lived in France since 1977. For a catalog of his titles available on Amazon, click here.

 

 

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