The prose of the poets is what permits those who fail to read poems to nevertheless hear a poet’s voice. This one certainty arrives in the midst of many possibilities: it can be a sacrifice, a paradox and a stratagem. Above all, however, it can be a delight.
The prose of the poets can be a sacrifice. This choice to speak prose means that a poet has to give up a bit of him- or of herself. Thus each time I read a poet’s prose, the implicit condition of its existence lurks and says: so that those lines can come to be, some poetry must have been sacrificed. In the strictest sense, this ‘must’ may not even be true (perhaps: no sacrifice at all, no either-or here). Yet, I cannot see this prose in any other way. It may be the tacit-present ancient hierarchies, the received, the assumed ones, that dictate this to me. This sacrifice evokes a slight sorrow over what has thus not come to be, but mostly gratitude for the poet’s kind choice. Kind: because in this prose those who fail to read poems, like me, can find their consolation and delight, and forget about their failure for a while.
The prose of the poets can be a paradox. This prose written in place of poems, makes a poet’s voice into what logic has long ago deemed impossible: the voice is the poet’s voice, but its melody sounds different, kindly mundane and plain, so although it is what it is, it is also somehow not. There, yet different, at once P and not P. I reach for Paris Spleen: it is Baudelaire who speaks. As does Miłosz, though it’s young Tomasz I run through The Issa Valley with, it’s Pessoa, not Soares, who, in The Book of Disquiet, keeps me quiet company. I hear Rilke, while I read The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, Herbert talks, Barbarian in The Garden, Brodsky in Less Than One. As I read the prose of the poets, the author is alive, and with this life comes the voice. If I sometimes take the time and wonder, the paradox materialises itself: who is it that speaks through those lines? A poet, or not? Whom do I hear?
[…] each time I read a poet’s prose, the implicit condition of its existence lurks and says: so that those lines can come to be, some poetry must have been sacrificed. In the strictest sense, this ‘must’ may not even be true (perhaps: no sacrifice at all, no either-or here).
The prose of the poets can be a stratagem. In my everyday, it is where I seek the poetic, as I have failed to read the poetry itself. I fail repeatedly, almost every time I try. I feel estranged, long before I even take a look; I can be jealous of those who say ‘I read poetry’, just so, so lightly, as if this was not an issue at all. It is not that I do not understand the words. It is not that I seek some arcane sense hidden in the poem, waiting to be resolved in the false synthesis of my arbitrary sense. It is not that I would not like to read poetry, nor that I hate it. It is just that something only too familiar always seems to stand in between, somewhere in the middle of the way. But the poetry, I tell myself, will come, one day, when I learn to let it speak instead of busying myself with being fit to hear it. Because the words and stanzas have long been there, in their perfectly patient indifferent presence. Among those uncertainties this I know, that it is not them what to blame.
Photos: Slaire Caunier