Friday, December 9, 2011

Aimless Reading: The P's, Part 41 (Francis Ponge)

Selected Poems
Ponge, Francis
Selected Poems

Purchased online earlier this year.

Francis Ponge was the poet I spent the most time with in 2011. I bought this in January and kept it on my nightstand until we moved in July. It made me wish I had studied French a more closely. I can make out a lot in the original, but I cannot really read it.

About this time last year that the literary outlaw Richard Deming asked me for some prose poetry for a journal he was guest editing. I hadn't really been writing prose poems for a the past few years, but he asked me based on some I had written in the past that he had published in chapbook form.

I said I would try to come up with something.

In our emails on the subject, Richard brought up Francis Ponge as someone he thought of as a model for innovation in the form. I had read a poem or two, but did not own any of his work. I bought this and another book, hoping I might find some inspiration there, and I did, though I don't think it ultimately influenced the work I sent to Richard.

Hey, come to think of it, I still haven't seen that journal. I wonder when it's coming out. Richard?

from Selected Poems


Astonishing that I can forget, forget so easily and for so long every time, the only principle according to which interesting works can be written, and written well. This is doubtlessly because I’ve never been able to define it clearly to myself in a conclusively representative or memorable way.

From time to time it comes to my mind, not, to be sure, as an axiom or maxim, but like a sunny day after a thousand which have been cloudy – or, rather, because it is not so much a natural as an artificial event, or, still more precisely, an artificial development – like the sudden illumination of an electric lightbulb in a house hitherto lit by kerosene. . . . But the next day, you’ve forgotten wiring’s been installed and you start again painstakingly filling the lamps, changing wicks, scorching your fingers on the glass, and being badly lit. . . .

You have first of all to side with your own spirit, and your own taste. Then take the time, and have the courage, to express all your thoughts on the subject at hand (not just keeping the expressions that seem brilliant or distinctive). Finally you have to say everything simply, not striving for charm, but conviction.”

Translated by C.K. Williams