Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Modern Poetry in Translation, Jaccottet

I've pasted this excert here because I feel that Jaccottet work and his search for a sense of place is very close to my search.

Helen Constantine

Philippe Jaccottet: extracts from Cahier de Verdure (Green Notebook)

In an interview with Mathilde Vischer (Grignan, 2000), Philippe Jaccottet called translating the experience of place into poetry and prose an ‘adventure’. It is an adventure that he has undertaken ever since La Promenade sous les arbres, one of the first books he wrote in the countryside of the Provençal Drôme, where he has lived and worked for fifty years. He explains that in his writing he tries to define, in words, moments that he has experienced as small epiphanies: “often very modest ones but which seemed to me to contain a kind of essential truth”; adding, with characteristic modesty, that he keeps realizing that what he is trying to do is extremely difficult. The word epiphany might suggest a religious view of the world. He may see a hand or hear a voice; or feel a breath emanating from a cherry tree or a flock of sheep. But these epiphanies have more the original Greek meaning of “manifestation,” a “becoming evident.” Jaccottet discerns and reveals an immanent, not a transcendental, beauty and significance in the world around him. This questing and striving to understand and convey the phenomena of the natural world is particularly evident in Jaccottet’s prose pieces. Poems may be to a certain extent “given” but prose allows a greater reflectiveness; the prose piece ‘Rising by Degrees’ from Cahier de verdure (Gallimard, 1990) is a good example of such writing. He often ponders, and attempts to understand, the significance of a natural event, in this case the phenomenon of the rising skylarks on the Lance mountain, and to share with his readers the sense of wonder and the intensity of emotion it inspires. Another such text, also contained in Cahier de verdure, is ‘Apparence des fleurs’. There the writer tries to come to terms with the degeneration and impending death of an old friend. In the naming of the flowers, in reflecting on their significance in relation to other writers and in Greek mythology, as well as on their personal associations, he almost convinces himself that they are in some way an answer, by their very existence, to his despair. The manner of describing, the exactness of the writing, is one way, and perhaps the only way, for him to combat the awfulness and inevitability of death. And to the question whether it is legitimate to accord so much importance to a flower or a field, Philippe Jaccottet answers that he needs to make their significance apparent in order to counter the threat of meaninglessness and nihilism. I made an unsuccessful attempt to translate that text; unsuccessful,for one thing, because the linguistic associations Jaccottet derives from the names of the flowers and birds in French are extraordinarily difficult to render into English. The word berce (cow-parsley) was a stumblingblock, because of its association in French with the word meaning ‘cradle’( had the poet connected the flower with its other name, patte d’ours, the translation might have been easier!) Likewise the word for a bluetit, mésange, which contains within it the word for an angel (ange). Jaccottet’s expertise in identifying flowers, birds and trees is unusual among French writers, less so perhaps amongst Swiss, which he is, of course, by birth. And as someone who has occasionally accompanied him on his “promenades sans but”, his wanderings in the Provençal countryside, I know at first hand how detailed and close that knowledge is. Many writers return to and are inspired by the country of their childhood. Not so Philippe Jaccottet. Grignan is “le lieu avant tous les autres”, the place where, as he says, his eyes were first opened. The nature he describes is therefore that of this region in particular, acountryside rich in spring flowers, summer lavender, autumn vines, where the changing seasons can be unbearably hot or bitterly cold. It is also a country where, for all the cultivation, much land and many stone farmhouses have been abandoned. Such lost places have a quite peculiar appeal. Philippe Jaccottet has never, in his poetry, involved himself inpolitical, social or other contemporary matters, a fact commented upon, sometimes disapprovingly, by many critics. (This subject is fully discussed in Hervé Ferrage’s study, Philippe Jaccottet: le pari de l’inactuel.) Jaccottet averts his poetic gaze from the nuclear power station just across the mountains, or from the chicken battery on the other side of the river. But there is an undeniable saying yea to life, a kind of assertiveness in his writing; a quiet affirmation of the things which he believes to be important and which we must not let go of. He knows as well as anyone what threatens any humane existence nowadays; and if he does not name and engage with these ills, he nonetheless, by his writing, intrinsically opposes them. Reading his poems and prose pieces you have the glad feeling thatthe phenomena he describes are eternal, whether it is the colour of an orchard in Le Cerisier (The Cherry Tree) or the singing of skylarks in Sur les degrés montants. His task he sees as translating those natural manifestations into words in the purest possible way: “Il y a pour chaque expérience à décrire des mots qui sont plus vrais que d’autres.” (“For every experience to be described there are words which are more true than others.”) Jaccottet seeks constantly in his writing to find the most truthful expression for his apprehension of the world.
page(s) 69-70

Saturday, 27 June 2009

On this June Cranham day

On this June Cranham day.
A flight of grasses moved southwards.
A call to warmth?
Banners, strips of racing white go endless overhead moving East.
This blue English sky.
Than stillness.
Close, a bee drones.
Until another breath is made by wind.
More grasses race away.
A pattern emerging in this green sea swell with its yellow tops
a discourse
what is organic
what is elemental?
rob miller cranham june 2009

Cranham Pastures. Watercolour

The second in the Cranham series. Here the view is across the greenest of vales, down and over Mill Lane. Buttercups flood the field with bright colour flying like little yellow flags above the palest of greens. In the distance is the deep wood above Cranham Common. All is still but for my brush and the twitch of the cattle's tails. All is quiet except the rook chatter, painting sounds and bee drone.
Watercolour and pencil 35 x 24 cm

Cranham Mill Lane Watercolour

The first of a series of watercolours as a continuation and second stage to the Cranham Sketches undertaken in June 2009.This one is from a drawing I did early one morning looking down the Lane just past Yewriks. The lane forms a tunnel with high dark banks of leaves, rabbits burrow here without care and the tunnel is full of the twitter and chatter of birds. Its a natural organic place were England's rural beauty is well preserved and thriving.

Watercolour approx 35 x 24 cm Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 25 June 2009

First Internacional Festival Arte Marbella

An amazing artist, my neighbour, the iron sculptor

Nimrod Messag from Israel takes it easy.

First Internacional Arte Festival Marbella

An art lover studying Rob Millers 30 x 30 cm
These small bright and cheerful acrylic paintings
were very popular.

First Internacional Festival Arte Marbella

Laura D'Angelo Painter.

Juan Gallardo Cabrera with his wonderful
Metal and ceramic animal sculptures

Saturday, 20 June 2009

First Internacional Festival Arte Marbella

One of my excellent artist neighbours at the festival
Spanish Artist Aurelio Rodriguez Lopez.

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1st Festival Internacional de Arte Marbella

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1st Festival Internacional de Arte Marbella

Olive tree Acrylic on canvas 80 x 80 cm
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1st Festival Internacional de Arte Marbella

Festival at night in the park.

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1st Festival Internacional de Arte Marbella

Cork Oak 140 x 80 cm x 3

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1st Festival Internacional de Arte Marbella

Rob Miller, Marbella showing Cork Oak Casares
and paintings of Ronda and San Roque

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Wednesday, 17 June 2009

jaccottet a poet close to the land

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Philippe Jaccottet is described by Roger Cardinal in the Oxford Companion to Literature in French as follows. 'Swiss by birth, Jaccottet settled in a French village in the Drôme, a region of wooded hills and mountainous prospects from which he derives a landscape poetry of non-specific and universal resonance. ... Trees and birds, rain and snow, moon and stars are the archetypal features of a world dense with intimations of harmony and transfiguration. Inspired by Hölderlin, Rilke and Ungaretti, each of whom he has translated, Jaccottet celebrates those rare moments of participatory insight when contingent phenomena, lyrically voiced, accede to the status of metaphor or metaphysical symbol.'Beauregard (1981) is a set of five prose pieces, the first of which was inspired by the poet's chance discovery of a remote, 'insignificant' village, in the Drôme called Beauregard. I read it in the Bloodaxe translation by Mark Treharne, who describes Beauregard as a collection of 'landscapes in prose', 'place reassembled as text.' Jaccottet writes of both the physical setting and his own interior landscape, something Treharne sees as inevitable - 'endemic in the whole business of inscribing landscape in the referential system of words'. However, the approach is something particularly associated with certain poets: Eugenio Montale for example (whose writing on the Cinque Terra I have described here before). Jaccottet cites Montale's poem Tempi di Bellosguardo in his own poem - they both contain 'the same word'.I found Mark Treharne's general introduction to Jaccottet interesting, touching as it does on some of the difficulties of dealing with landscape in the arts today. Here are some of the points made in it:
Jaccottet elected to live in the Drôme to avoid distractions, not to write regional verse or nature poetry. The landscape provides 'a point of focus for sensory, affective and meditative response.'
His poetry represents attentiveness pushed to its limits. But 'scrutiny should not be too intense, too keen for the capture, or it will kill its object.'
The eyes, according to Jaccottet, drink in the world and 'contribute to its metamorphosis into immaterial images.' In his poetry, 'objects become images and ultimately figures of language.'
But landscape is not just a static image, it changes constantly and Jaccottet reflects this (particularly the play of light and seasonal change).
One of Jaccottet's prose works is called Paysages avec figures absentes, which sounds like a collection of landscape paintings that have lost their 'figures' (in connection with this, see my earlier post on artworks entitled 'Landscape with...') In this, he describes intense encounters with a landscape that sound like epiphanies, but is reluctant to make too much of them. 'Occasionally, as if our movements had crossed - like the encounter of two glances that can create a flash of illumination and open up another world - I have thought I had glimpsed what I should have to call the still centre of the moving world. Too much said? Better to move on...'
As a modern landscape poet, Jaccottet finds it important to stress the distance between nature and human cycles: 'landscape can appear ordinary and familiar, but also alien, full of uneasy distances, a foreign language.'
Finally, the introduction to the Bloodaxe translation begins with discussion of a brief poem that contemplates the sight of snow on a mountain. It is from Airs: poèms 1961-64, a collection inspired by haiku. The poem is an 'enigmatic verbal landscape' - its lack of detail leaves the reader unsure how specific or real it is. For Treharne, 'the laconic style provokes an involvement with the poem that a more explicit formulation would not have done.'

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Cranham Mill Charcoal Drawing

On this beautiful Cotswold Morning the Mill buildings creamy ochre stone made a great focal point when set against a foreground of deep green foliage. Parent ducks quacked constantly as their 8 wonderfully tame ducklings watched my charcoal sticks every move as they followed me around the mill pond getting under my feet.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Cranham Charcoal drawing 1

It was really great to visit old friends last week and enjoy a stay in their magnificent home. This also gave me a chance once again to explore a corner of the Cotswold's this time Cranham.

This charcoal drawing scanned from my sketch book is of a grand house on the road from Buckholt Rd to Cranham Village above Mill Lane.
Its the first in a series of works on the Cotswolds see Cranham slide show.

Friday, 5 June 2009

River Ribble under light rain

The River Ribble in Ribchester in the heart of Lancashire is I think best seen when its full waters glisten under a quick rain shower. The refracted light flickers across the rain drops. Its at this time the trout and rain drops compete to make the best concentric ripple on the rivers heavy surface.
Work, Acrylic on canvas Ascot studios (2007-2009)

Spring Barn Ribble Valley

The remote barn in this painting was situated on a rise at the top of a Lane in the Ribble Valley. Like an old man its ancient walls hugged the ground just below the sky line for shelter. Around the barn a drift of buttercups flooded the small field in bright colour. Above a hawk mewed and drifted through a kaleidoscope of subtle blue gray skies.
Work acrylic on canvas, 50 x 50 cm can be seen at Ascot Studios Ribchester.

Ribble Valley High Barn

An all to brief visit back to Ascot studios in the Ribble Valley Lancashire resulted in the development of some new work. After spending months in Spain it was fascinating to see the variety of greens in the valley especially from the subtle shift of light from clouded skies. The work featured here is of a new barn high up the valley reached by walking along a wet green track. The valley alive with the song of lambs and sky larks. The work is acrylic on canvas, 50 x 50 cm and can be seen at Ascot Studios in Ribchester.