‘The Eternal Procession’ – Paul Stubbs reviews Yves Bonnefoy’s ‘The Arrière-pays’

The Arrière-pays
Yves Bonnefoy

Translated by Stephen Romer – Seagull Books, 2012

‘Yves Bonnefoy is first an abstract form, then a poet. Therefore a work such as The Arrièrepays is but a shadow giving notice of his shapes still to locate a sundial. He is what Jean-Paul Sartre said of  Baudelaire, that he had the posture of ‘a leaning man’ (‘d’un homme penché’); one acutely adrift of the comet of his own flesh and who, burning up in the drag of his own sentences, holds within his fist only the shredded remains of each exploded space. When Rimbaud wrote ‘To every being, several other lives seemed to me to be due’ he opened up in knowledge and in poetry the first true terror-pores of gnosis, allowing a poet like Bonnefoy to access his own unpurged mind, to conceive of what Yeats revealed in Vision—‘all things dying each other’s life, living each other’s death’. To witness the mirage of this elsewhere in time and space (this place which Bonnefoy names ‘the arrière-pays’ i.e. an imaginary hinterland born of what he calls the ‘unknown feeling’), this poet has first to return to Eden, to locate the one tree in which the fruit is still flesh, and whose bark, if peeled back, reveals only his own still unused bone.’
Paul Stubbs

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