In an interview with Alain Veinstein for France Culture in 1999, André du Bouchet proclaimed: ‘J’appelle poème tout fragment ou paysage de langue, porté à un degré d’intensité ou de précision où il vous met dans un rapport vivant avec vous-même’ (quoted on p. 59). Victor Martinez’s slim volume examines du Bouchet’s poetry under four key headings — ‘La Langue’, ‘Le Poème’, ‘L’Événement’, and ‘L’Intonation’ — while remaining focused on the universalizing experience at the heart of his poetic project, as summed up by the poet in the Veinstein interview. Martinez emphasizes that du Bouchet is ‘le grand poète du vivant, dans toutes les acceptions du terme’ (p. 7), and this book is posited as a timely assertion of both the coherence and magnitude of du Bouchet’s lifelong poetic endeavour. For Martinez, du Bouchet’s work reconsiders the relationship between language and the material world, enabling the emergence of a new reality and sonority in his work. In his poetry, language is dislocated but also reinvigorated so that, as Martinez highlights, ‘elle reconduit au monde en reconduisant le monde’ (p. 56, emphases original). The study’s careful and methodical uncovering of ‘[l]a nature vivante d’une page d’André du Bouchet’ (p. 8) is both engaging and illuminating, always sensitive to du Bouchet’s own assessments of his vision while remaining grounded in a rigorous theoretical framework (drawing on Saussure, Jakobson, Peirce, and Heidegger, among others). Useful comparisons with the work of other contemporary poets, including that of du Bouchet’s friend Paul Celan (whose poetry du Bouchet also translated), are expertly woven into the text, showing the reader that, alongside his analysis of du Bouchet’s experiments in recalibrating our understanding of the poetic potential of language, Martinez does not lose sight of the need to situate the poet’s creative impetus in the wider context of innovation in twentieth-century European poetry. A number of critical commentaries on du Bouchet have considered his work in terms of text–image relations; Martinez’s incisive readings of the verbal and visual aspects of du Bouchet’s poetry ensure that this study will prove itself to be another important contribution to this area. In a rather unexpected move, however, Martinez’s dense text gives way to the aerated poetry of du Bouchet for the text’s overall conclusion, which solely comprises a long citation from ‘Peinture’, taken from Ici en deux. Martinez thus cedes considerably [End Page 417] more than the final word to the poet himself. While this alternative coda might initially disconcert the reader, one possible advantage is that he or she will be able to gain, when launched into the wor(l)d of du Bouchet in this fashion and no longer visibly accompanied by the critic’s voice, a renewed appreciation of the engrossing and universalizing nature of du Bouchet’s poetic vision in the wake of Martinez’s masterful analysis.
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André du Bouchet: poésie, langue, événement. Par Victor Martinez. (Chiasma, 31.) Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2013. 188pp.
Elizabeth Geary Keohane
University of Toronto
Copyright © 2014 Elizabeth Geary Keohane