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Reviewed by:
  • André du Bouchet et ses autres
  • Michael Brophy
André du Bouchet et ses autres. Textes réunis et présentés par Philippe Met . ( Écritures contemporaines, 6). Paris — Caen, Lettres Modernes Minard, 2003. 221 pp. Pb €20.00.

Poet, critic and translator, André du Bouchet emerged in postwar France as a courageously uncompromising voice, wary of the aesthetic and philosophical [End Page 284] tenets of previous Surrealist endeavour, yet drawn to, and informed by, a host of other artistic practices which accompany his own interminable questioning of the real and, from Shakespeare and Holderlin to Celan and Giacometti, resonate anew within his words, find their place in his work even as they exhibit their own displacement, their own essential difference in relation to the poetic adventure they so intimately help further. This solid collection of ten essays pays fitting tribute to du Bouchet's investigative embrace of the other and, more generally, to his exploration of otherness as the perpetuation of an opening through which language is invited to spill forth into an unfathomable outside, and the subject to experience projectively an impossible 'pas hors de l'humain'. Franck Villain cogently argues that the advent of self stems for the poet from this other(ness) encountered without, and that each encounter is in itself shifting and provisional, situated in a tensed 'espace hors dialectique' where rupture endlessly spawns the urge for renewal. In his analysis of the anticipated otherness of 'l'unique instant de la mort', James Petterson highlights language haunted less by the unimaginable reality of the unduplicable event than by the shortcomings of its own workings which, largely eclipsing the latter, impress upon consciousness the far more immediate and intractable 'réalité de la réitération et de l'attente'. These contributions associate otherness with a distance that is at once incessantly traversed and emphatically irreducible, producing a poetry that remains to the end fractured, unsettling and incomplete. Both Michel Collot and Valéry Hugotte focus on du Bouchet's approach to Giacometti: the former explores how Giacometti's subversion of the traditional relationship between the figure and its background guides the poet's own pursuit in writing of a tantalizing 'objet qui échappe en principe aussi bien à la parole qu'au regard', while the latter delineates the affinities between du Bouchet et Jacques Dupin through examination of their divergent assessments of the artist's work, and consequently posits 'deux poésies étrangement jumelles et discordantes'. With characteristic acuity and delicacy, Michael Bishop probes du Bouchet's appreciation of Segers, Poussin and Tal Coat, celebrating therein qualities of porousness, convergence and interchangeability, an 'acte et lieu d'hésitation, d'aporie, d'accueil intuitif au-delà/en deçà de tout savoir définitif'. Philippe Met offers an intriguing study of Ponge's and du Bouchet's reception of each other's work while Daniel Guillaume considers questions of distance and literalness in du Bouchet and Hocquard, using Wittgenstein to ground his comparison. These and the other studies in the volume provide the reader with multiple points of access to the incalculable promise of the poet's tireless struggle with enigma and opacity in and beyond language. Their incisiveness is timely, helping, together with Michael Bishop's Altérités d'André du Bouchet which also appeared in 2003, to remedy a certain dearth of critical writing devoted to the poet. As Daniel Leuwers demonstrates in his analysis of the notebooks, here then is a poetry which is as unyieldingly splintered, ambiguous and paradoxical as it is discreet, generous and singularly inviting: 'De subtiles passerelles articulent l'aveugle au muet, dans le souci de ne jamais imposer, mais de toujours proposer'. The volume should act as an important spur for further varied scrutiny of this most pertinent of poetic openings, which scrupulously preserves and ponders [End Page 285] the distance indispensable for the apprehension of being's resurgent, but ever-elusive and ineffable othernesses.

Michael Brophy
University College Dublin


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