Letter to the unknown woman across the street, I
Curtains, blinds, draperies, shades, no, nothing
Madame, to conceal from your Cyclops’ eye
in the shadows from which it spies on me
this long pale body, false corpse tired out
with debauchery, which is swooning too
before your balcony, with your drying
stockings and scanties of a nun at bay—
poisonous flowers for a lonely man
whom death panics, draws erect, demarrows
in the night, riveted to your white thighs.
Readers who denounce most contemporary French poetry as self-referential experimentation, word games, exercises in deconstruction, or other kinds of incomprehensible writing disconnected from everyday life—brace yourselves for a revelation. Erotic and urbane, distinguished by formal skill yet marked by the subtlest shades of feeling, Guy Goffette’s unabashedly lyrical poems pay homage to both Verlaine and Rimbaud, whom he counts as his important forbears, with echoes of Auden and Pound, Pavese and Borges.
In Charlestown Blues, poet and translator Marilyn Hacker has chosen a tightly thematic selection of poems, all centering around the notion of “blue”—the color and the emotion, as well as that quintessentially American style of musical performance. Hacker’s crystalline and musical English renderings will show Anglophones why Goffette is considered one of the most important poets writing in French today.