Poetry Monday: today, “if you bared your teeth for once if you opened your mouth”

Who’s Afraid of Big Books of Poetry? One year after the very highly recommendable Back, thought (poem), coming back by Jacques Jouet (480 pages), which brings together four years of daily poems and which is swallowed with happiness and without any indigestion, here are a thousand poems by Patrick Varetz (528 pages), also at POL

The approach here is not the same as Jacques Jouet. The ulipian writes one poem a day and even if he proceeds in cycles, he explores many different forms. Varetz instead offers a set of poems of the same form: three tercets followed by a line, with some variations from one text to another. The formal consistency is such that the book can very well be read as a single poem divided into a thousand (short) parts. But each text is also in itself a concentrate. Here, the lines are short, the vocabulary is crystal clear.

This Second thousand (the Premier appeared in 2013, and Varetz is writing the Third) is crossed by subjects that the author himself wishes to emphasize. In a summary, he details “the series” (when he is inspired by other poems, travels to Lisbon or writes for a missing friend), “The major themes” (anger, emptiness, imposture …), “Minor themes” (blue, pleasure, Facebook …) and “The apparitions” who cross the book (“Arlette”, Nan Goldin, Paul Otchakovsky-Laurens…) But one of the main characters of this new delivery remains his father, whom he already mentioned in the Curse of Barcelona. Poem 1696: “What good is it to write this / long letter to your father / with the further intention / to hurt him for what good.”

Here are four of the thousand poems in the book, taken from a series written from a print of I Ching.

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1536.

if you were less afraid
also if you were a little
less empty a little more

involved as they say
in the course of existence
in this life that is

more your jaws
slam or they are
those of anger there

are you chomping at the bit if
that’s how we
said chomping at the bit and the

vacuum is lost and the well
here it is
starts to feel the rain

1537.

if you were less cowardly too
if only you were less
coward with anger looks-

you are there standing without you
stand up you bend over and you
have a drink it looks like

that life escapes you so alone-
you were less afraid and
if you stopped – if for one

time damn if for once

1538.

if for once you stopped
to eat away at all the words of
through to trim the fat

around the bone if you showed
teeth for once if you
open your mouth resume

a glass and open your whore
mouth for a whore
of times – what do you

wait to build a
real well with a pulley
a curbstone and a whore

of rope

1539.

What are you waiting for
damn to go down to
bottom of your anger fear

planted in the arms and
in the legs everything is
there go throw the coins

three pieces by six times
there are in all sixty and
four possibilities and the

well of them is the
forty-eighth water
at the top and the wood at the bottom

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that the heart is dry and that
the rope is missing at the well
and it’s the jug again

your broken jug

Patrick Varetz, Second thousand, ed. POL, 528 pages, 32 euros.


Guillaume Lecaplain

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