Philippe Jaccottet at 80

The poet Philippe Jaccottet turns 80 today. Born in Western Switzerland, he has lived in the town of Grignan in Southern France for close to 50 years now. Very productive bothas poet and prose writer, his work has been published mainly by Gallimard & a range of excellent smaller presses in France & elsewhwre — while being widely translated into other languages, though with very little available in English. Back in 1974, Grossman published Cid Corman’s translation of Breathings, a collection of Jaccottet’s poems, now long out of print though you can locate still affordable copies via abebooks. In 1997 New Directions brought out Michael Hamburger’s translations of Seedtime: Extracts from The Notebooks 1954-67.

He is also one of the major translators of his generation into French, with versions of Homer, Tasso, Leopardi, Ungaretti, Montale, Rilke, Hölderlin, Thomas Mann, Ludwig Hohl and Robert Musil as his main achievements.

Of his poetry he has said:

My poems are always born a little lonely — like the heat in a sauce pan produces bubbles. Nearly lazily. When you writes that way, you don’t know at all what part intelligence and what part intuition play, you simply tell yourself afterward that all of it has to work together, and as you weren’t born yesterday or with the last poem, and as your head is full of old texts, that memory guides and nourishes you in your work, without you always being conscious of it.

And here an untranslated text from “Soir, Paysages avec figures absentes:”

Ailleurs est dite par les prés une parole encore plus lointaine et plus merveilleuse : dans ces sortes d’enclos où veille un seul peuplier, où quelques mûriers s’arrondissent, où j’aperçois encore une dizaine de moutons groupés, à contre-jour, bientôt dans l’ombre. Qu’est-ce qui accorde si parfaitement ces quelques bêtes à l’herbe haute et à l’huile du soir ? Là-bas, dans le lointain, que signifie ce groupe serré, silencieux, à peu près immobile ? Ce sont des bêtes douces, domestiques si l’on veut mais plutôt à la façon de fantômes que de chats ou de chiens, au fond très lointaines elles-mêmes, douces, presque éternelles et presque absentes, amies de la terre nue, de la poussière et des pierres – et telles que si le seul bélier qu’elles suivent vraiment était la lune. Vieilles comme les pierres, elles-mêmes pierres laineuses, ou antiques outres laineuses pressées les unes contre les autres, usées, farouches, cachées par la poussière que leur trottinement soulève, immémoriales et saintes.

& a bibliography:

Poésie

L’Effraie et autres poésies, éd. Gallimard.
Airs, poèmes, éd. Gallimard, 1961 – 1964.
L’entretien des muses, chroniques de poésie, éd. Gallimard.
Poésie 1946 – 1967, choix. Préface de J. Starobinski, éd. Gallimard.
Á la lumière d’hiver, poèmes, éd. Gallimard.
Pensées sous les nuages, poèmes, éd. Gallimard.
Une transaction secrète, lectures de poésie, éd. Gallimard.
Á la lumière d’hiver, suivi de Pensées sous les nuages, poèmes, éd. Gallimard.
Requiem, poèmes, Fata Morgana

Proses, récits

Philippe Jaccottet, cahier XIV, Le Temps qu’il fait, 2001.
Carnets 1995 – 1998 (La semaison III), éd. Gallimard.
La seconde semaison, carnets 1980 – 1994, éd. Gallimard.
Écrits pour papier journal, chroniques 1951 – 1970, éd. Gallimard.
Éléments d’un songe, proses, éd. Gallimard.
L’Obscurité, récit, éd. Gallimard.
D’une lyre à cinq cordes, traduction 1976 – 1995, éd. Gallimard.
Et, néanmoins, proses et poèmes, éd. Gallimard.
Á travers un verger suivi de Les cormorans et de Beauregard, proses, éd. Gallimard.
Paysages avec figures absentes, proses, éd. Gallimard.
Cahier de verdure, proses et poèmes, éd. Gallimard.
Après beaucoup d’années, proses et poèmes, éd. Gallimard.
La semaison, carnets 1954 – 1979, éd. Gallimard.
La promenade sous les arbres, proses, Bibliothèque des arts.
Libretto, La Dogana.
Tout n’est pas dit, billets 1956 – 1964 , Le Temps qu’il fait.
Note du ravin, Fata Morgana
Le bol du pélerin, Morandi, La Dogana
Cristal et fumée, notes de voyage, Fata Morgana

Poèmes et proses, CD, poèmes dits par l’auteur, éditions Thélème, 2003 (photo ci-dessus, extraite du livret)

A good interview for French speakers can be read at: http://www.culturactif.ch/entretiens/jaccottet.htm

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11 opinions on “Philippe Jaccottet at 80”

  1. his is a wonderful poetry. wake forest university press had also published a selection translated by Irish poet Derek Mahon. Jaccottet should be better known in the US, with more of his prose works translated and published too. I’ve read only _Seedtime_ an essential work and excellent intro to his poetics.

  2. Comment on “opacity” re the Celan material: of course, if one is seeking to genuinely explore any area of consciousness, the con-genital, or simply, genital, lowers its head and drinks. The core we arise fromis entangled in psyche, and to a great extent, is the enigmatic signifier (or sacrificer) complex that generates psychic power. Blake’s “explicit to the idiot” remark is pertinent here. Willful obscurity should not be confused with the opaque, or with what will not yet stand fully revealed. Blake appeared totally opaque to his contemporaries (to the extent that he was considered mad by many of them); today, we regard him as a hero of the voyage into the new. Both Celan and Cesar Vallejo, in their terminal writings, arise from the black water they have delved into, as human forms stuccoed with the collectings of their descent. Were this “news” to be immediately understandable in the way that reportage is held accountable, it would be worthless. The opaque is an aspect of coherence, the part of its spectrum that is imbued with the abyss.
    –Clayton Eshleman

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