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Sunday, 6 June 2010

Reverdy: Each His Share


File:Diatoms through the microscope.jpg

He chased the moon, he left the night behind. One by one the stars have fallen into a net of living water.

In the shadows under the aspens a strange fisherman waits impatiently with one eye open, alone, hidden under his big hat; and there is a quivering on the line.


Nothing caught, he loads his bag with gold pieces whose radiance vanishes once closed up inside his basket.

But another angler had been biding his time a little way from the shore. He'd been fishing less ambitiously in a muddy puddle left behind by the rain. This water, heaven sent, sparkled with stars.

File:Spider web Luc Viatour.jpg

Pierre Reverdy: Chacun sa part from Poèmes en Prose (1915), trans. TC

Il a chassé la lune, il a laissé la nuit. Une à une les étoiles sont tombée dans un filet d'eau vive.

Derrière les trembles un étrange pécheur guette avec impatience d'un oeil ouvert, le seul, caché sous son large chapeau; et la ligne frémit.

Rien ne se prend, mais il emplit sa gibecière de pièces d'or dont l'eclat s'est éteint dans le panier fermé.

Mais un autre attendait plus loin du bord. Plus modeste il pêchait dans la flaque de boue qu'avait laissé la pluie. Cette eau, venue de ciel, était pleine d'étoiles.

Marine diatoms (phytoplankton encased within a silicate cell wall) found living between crystals of annual sea ice in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica: photo by Gordon P. Taylor, 1983 (NOAA)
Dew drops on a Gerbera: photo by Friedrich Böhringer, 2006
Dew adhering to a spider's web in the morning: photo by Luc Viatour, 2007


TC said...

Another kind of fisherman.

Curtis Roberts said...

Attending a Reverdy-Clark match-up was an exciting and stimulating way to spend Sunday. Outside for a while, again playing the part of The Mower, I thought about these two poems and the way you internalized (it seemed to me) Reverdy’s way of looking and speaking (in writing) and applied it in the translation and Matins. I was lucky to discover Reverdy fairly early in my serious reading life and his voice and attitude sank in and grabbed hold. I’m not lucky enough to have a surpassing, instant understanding of things, so he’s often still a mystery to me, but one I like to return to because I think I derive something new and profound every time. All of the images – the drops, the marine organisms and Tom Raworth’s photograph – are wondrous accompaniments and remarkable on their own. The spider web is probably my favorite. Once I spent a long relaxing evening in pleasant wine-filled conversation on a summer porch watching two spiders spin webs in different corners. Seeing the web close-up like this, covered with morning dew, is unbelievable (but I trust the caption).

TC said...


Many thanks. On what is to be discovered with Reverdy --

"...a surpassing, instant understanding of things, so he’s often still a mystery to me, but one I like to return to because I think I derive something new and profound..."

That's lovely. I think Reverdy's still a mystery to everybody, always, if read with care, revealing new aspects and new depths.

Lucky for us, someone who's an expert, Ron Padgett, has just sent along his version of this poem. "Re: Pierre. The joys of different translations..."(Merci beaucoup, Ron!)

To Each His Own

He hunted the moon, he left the night. One by one the stars fell into a net of running water.

Behind the trembling aspens a strange fisherman watches anxiously with an open eye, the only one, hidden under his big hat, and the line quivers.

Nothing is caught, but he fills his basket with pieces of gold whose glittering is darkened inside the closed hamper.

But someone else was waiting further down the bank. More modest, he was fishing in a mud puddle the rain had left. That water, from the sky, was full of stars.

Curtis Roberts said...

What a great way to begin the day/working week. Thank you.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

The folktale quality of this - particularly the idea of two fisherman, one hasty in the thrall of his quarry, the other patient, less ambitious - grounds it in the real, making the mystery so much more profound.

A pleasant blend that puts we in mind of Hesse and Chinese folklore. Lovely that mystery is the morale.

Very nice, Tom (& Ron), thanks.

TC said...

Thanks Don. Yes, that parabolic fable/folktale quality here is what draws me to this poem; and I like the way the mystery is not quite dispelled.

(A somewhat similar quality also, I think, in the Brecht "The Stone Fisherman"--though Brecht of course is harder, less lyrical. Still: distance, surprise, mystery.)

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Tom, ah, yes, I see your translation of Brecht on a previous post.

I see or, perhaps, rather feel the kinship you are talking about between the poems. In Brecht, it is the unstated which intrigues me. When the big fisherman lifts that stone triumphantly, you have to think that some one or two in the laughing crowd have, at least for a moment, stopped and begun to wonder. It would seem that wonder may be another form of mystery.

The three fisherman together would make what might be called, anachronistically, an old school mash-up. Thanks for pointing back to Brecht.

TC said...

"It would seem that wonder may be another form of mystery."

Right on target, Don.