Saturday, April 29, 2023

Paul Valéry

 Paul Valéry

"In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished - a word that for them has no sense - but abandoned; and this abandonment, whether to the flames or to the public (and which is the result of weariness or an obligation to deliver) is a kind of an accident to them, like the breaking off of a reflection, which fatigue, irritation, or something similar has made worthless."  

~Paul Valéry.

[Aux yeux de ces amateurs d’inquiétude et de perfection, un ouvrage n’est jamais achevé, – mot qui pour eux n’a aucun sens, – mais abandonné ; et cet abandon, qui le livre aux flammes ou au public (et qu’il soit l’effet de la lassitude ou de l’obligation de livrer) est une sorte d’accident, comparable à la rupture d’une réflexion, que la fatigue, le fâcheux ou quelque sensation viennent rendre nulle.]

Paul Valéry (1871-1945) French poet, critic, author, polymath

Whilst this translation above is one possible version the current - shall we say verbatim (via google translation) is;-

"In the eyes of these lovers of uneasiness and perfection, a work is never finished – a word which for them has no meaning – but abandoned; and this abandonment, which delivers it to the flames or to the public (and whether it is the effect of lassitude or of the obligation to deliver) is a sort of accident, comparable to the rupture of a reflection, which the fatigue, the unfortunate or some sensation come to nullify"

..if a French reader would care to correct this 'raw version' I would be honoured.

In March 1933 Paul Valéry published an essay in “La Nouvelle Revue Française” (“The New French Review”) about his poem “Le Cimetière marin” (“The Cemetery by the sea”) and this quote emerged from there.


New Criterion had a great article a few years back (imho)

Le Cimetière marin is written in alexandrine /alexandrin, a verse form that was the leading measure in French poetry a couple of hundred years ago. It consists of a line of 12 syllables with major stresses on the 6th syllable (which precedes the medial caesura [pause]) and on the last syllable, and one secondary accent in each half line.

The foundation of most alexandrines consists of two hemistichs (half-lines) of six syllables each, separated by a caesura (a metrical pause or word break, which may or may not be realized as a stronger syntactic break):

Whilst somewhat reluctant to start a poetry war it would be most interesting to examine the form in the context of the scope of the rigours and how one might port them to our time and language.

I may have to temper this with Pindar's advice;-

"Do not, my soul, strive for the life of the immortals,
but exhaust the practical means at your disposal."


"On mountain peak, the eagle spreads its wings,
And in the valley, river softly sings.
The sun sets low, the day comes to a close,
As nature rests, and peacefulness imposes."

ou de moi

"Sur le sommet de la montagne l'aigle étend ses ailes,
Et dans la vallée, la rivière chante doucement.
Le soleil se couche, la journée se termine,
Comme la nature se repose, la tranquillité impose."

Saturday, April 01, 2023

Gaps in the oeuvre

Readers have asked me why are there such gaps in your work and well there ain't.. ;-)

I'm a little OCD and track the poems I have written - although I am behind right now, good years and bad years - you know yourself...

I am in the process of addressing this and at the least will post up a few poems for the missing years. I am very appreciative of the nudges in this regard.

An issue here is prior publication. It is often the case that one cannot submit when the poem has been previously 'published' on one's own website / blog. Whilst I can appreciate the sentiment / rationale from a publishing perspective it does seem counter indicative - one holds / hoards the 'allegedly' good poems for submission. 

Whilst the merit of a poem is totally subjective nonetheless one is contrained by the 'rule' - in my opinion. Comparing this with other creative endeavours would seem to confirm this, how might a painter sell or exhibit work without showing work?

I track when and where, the year, the title, the date, the location and well about 10 other metrics. Yeah I know, I'd be better to try and focus on poetry. (or vice versa). I only write in pencil and in longhand and only add poems to the spreadsheet after they have been transcribed into a Doc. I tend to cycle through no punctuation or some punctuation, perhaps even full punctuation. I think the cadence / the inflection one hears in the mind makes or breaks the poem, irregardless to punctuation or lack thereof.

It's not over since then the process of drafts, the bad and the ugly are easy - one leaves them alone. The good however iterate themselves. Years ago I was amazed to learn that the great Stanley Kunitz cycled through as many as a hundred drafts before he was happy. 

Back to Paul Valéry;-

"In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished - a word that for them has no sense - but abandoned;.."

For me it is not perfection, per se, perhaps just that one word that does not belong.  <grin>

I rate poems 1 to 5 stars and then use the spreadsheet to track submissions, when I'm in submission mode, which does fluctuate somewhat.

There is a funny / applicable anecdote here, a Basque person was talking to an Irish speaker about the various nuances of their languages and asked;-

what is the equivalent word in Irish for mañana? (tomorrow)
the Irish speaker thought for a while and said
we do not have a word that exhibits that sense of urgency