Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Hanging head 
               Eyelashes curled 

Mouth silent 

The lights go on 

There is nothing there but a name 

                    Which has been forgotten 

If the door opens 

I won’t dare go in 

               Everything happens back there 

They talk 
          And I listen 
My fate is at stake in the next room 

Tête penchée

               Cils recourbés

Bouche muette

Les lampes sont allumées

Il n’y a plus qu’un nom

                     Que l’on a oublié

La porte se serait ouverte

Et je n’oserais pas entrer

                 Tout ce qui se passe derrière

On parle

              Et je peux écouter

Mon sort était en jeu dans la pièce à côté

NOTE:  When I was in high school in Washington, Connecticut, waking up to all sorts of literature and visual art, principally through the lens of Cubism, I discovered the poetry of Pierre Reverdy, which has stayed with me as a touchstone.  I knew French well enough by that time to be able to read the original poetry, but I also read Reverdy in translation, initially in Kenneth Rexroth's book, Pierre Reverdy, Selected Poems, which, as I recall, had a Juan Gris guitar drawing on its cover. This poem, Miracle, haunted me back then.  When I spent the summer in France in 1971, wandering around bookstores and art galleries much of the time, and I first experienced Reverdy in situ, it affected me strongly and gave me the feeling that my thoughts were real and actually connected up to an external reality.  The three illustrations included here, Portrait of Violette Heymann (1910), The Cyclops (1914), and Self-Portrait (1880), are by Odilon Redon. 


  1. Curtis,

    I too had my imagination haunted by the evasive ghost of Pierre Reverdy, in that formative period when you recognize there's no turning back, and yet you'll never find out what's in that next room.

    For those who revel in what Keats called "the pleasure of not knowing," Reverdy's work is an endless festival... of shadows.)

  2. I wasn't, but think I should have been, aware of the "pleasure of not knowing" (meaning that Keats said it; thank you for identifying and encapsulating it for me). It is an area where personal and professional meet for me -- a place where I can be happy and wait patiently alone on the train platform not actually knowing or greatly caring whether the train will ever arrive because all sorts of other activity is about that might remain unobserved if you're focusing on some expected thing. This actually works for lawyers too, but not as well as possessing and presenting smoking guns. Reverdy was a great (hermetic, if that's the right word; I still find a lot of things about his life and work mysterious) gift that arrived around the same time I found a diverse group of poets collected in a Paul Carroll anthology that kind of set me on my way in a direction also. Life's funny, certainly. Kind of frenetic recently. Jane wants a saxophone and has devised an ingenious and weird installment payment plan to acquire one. I'm constantly hoping that that my reach is equal to my grasp and then I can just get away for a bit. Tomorrow I rise (assuming I sleep before then) to try to untangle a drafting thicket I myself created this evening. Wish me luck. Curtis