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  • Poètes français du 21ème siècle: entretiens by Nathalie Wourm
  • Emma Wagstaff
Poètes français du 21ème siècle: entretiens. Par Nathalie Wourm. (Chiasma, 41.) Leiden: Brill Rodopi, 2017. 149 pp.

This volume is essential reading for anyone interested in French poetry of the last thirty years. Through fascinating interviews with fourteen poets and two publishers, Nathalie Wourm succeeds in delineating the parameters and motivations of some of the most innovative contemporary poetic practice while also allowing the diversity of that practice to emerge. Wourm begins each interview by asking whether there has been a movement in poetry since the 1980s and 1990s. Although she does not at first prompt her subjects to comment on the publication in 1995, by Olivier Cadiot and Pierre Alferi, of the two numbers of the Revue de littérature générale, and especially the first issue, 'La Mécanique lyrique', it does not take long for that venture to be mentioned as a turning [End Page 476] point. In the main, respondents suggest either that any movement was a pre-2000 phenomenon, or that better than 'movement' would be expressions such as 'affinités' (Jacques Sivan, p. 108), or 'réseau' (Jean-Marie Gleize, p. 128). Most reject the term 'avant-garde', associating that with formal associations and adherence to a manifesto. The interviewees are broadly in agreement that they and similar writers react against the notion of poetic language as set apart from everyday uses of language, and also against the formal experiments associated with Tel Quel, and the 'nouveau lyriste' movement of the 1980s. Wourm elicits from several poets that they have been influenced by deconstruction or the work of Deleuze and Guattari, and she makes this the basis of her Introduction, arguing that deterritorialization and deconstruction are at the heart of their projects. The importance of poetry reviews emerges strongly. Several of Wourm's subjects were instrumental in setting up reviews, where they published for the first time writers who would go on to have significant profiles on the lists of Éditions P.O.L and Al Dante, founded respectively by the late Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens and by Laurent Cauwet, both interviewed here. Wourm asks all the writers whether they consider their work to be political. While most hesitate to attribute any direct political effect to their practice, with notable exceptions including Charles Pennequin, they are keen to stress that writing is necessarily political in the sense of being embedded in society (Nathalie Quintane, p. 79), through its status as 'minoritaire' (Jean-Michel Espitallier, p. 57), or because it critiques dominant discourses (Vannina Maestri, p. 110). Despite her central thesis, Wourm is careful to ensure that the diversity of contemporary practice emerges. Many interviewees stress the influence of Bernard Heidsieck on subsequent poets' interest in orality, but beyond that a picture emerges of a range of preoccupations and methods, from Anne-James Chaton's work with rock musicians to the use of humour by Quintane, Christian Prigent, and Anne Portugal, and from the interest in new forms professed by Alferi and Cadiot, to Jérôme Game's stuttering performances. As well as crossing disciplines, some poets, such as Christophe Hanna, aim to produce 'OVNIs' ('Objets verbaux non-identifiés'). Overall, Wourm shows us the creative possibilities of this exciting and as yet underresearched field.

Emma Wagstaff
University of Birmingham


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pp. 476-477
Launched on MUSE
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