Dispatches from MES FORETS/MY FORESTS by Hélène Dorion

Translated from the French by SUSANNA LANG

Poems appear below in both French and English.




Québec Province, Canada

Les racines
fendent le sol
comme des éclairs

avancent dans leur solitude
et tremblent

pareilles à une vaste cité de bois
les racines
s’accordent à la sève
qui les fouille

observent-elles les nuages
pour apprendre
la langue de l’horizon


The roots
split the soil
like lightning

press forward trembling
in their solitude

like a vast city of wood
the roots
accommodate the sap
that scours them

do they observe the clouds
to learn
how the horizon speaks



Le silence
si je marche
avec les ombres de ma vie
comme de lourds oiseaux
qui dévorent les promesses
suis-je l’arbre              suis-je la feuille
grugée par les saisons

je ne sais pas
ce qui se tait en moi
quand la forêt
cesse de rêver



The silence
if I walk
with the shadows in my life
like heavy birds
that gorge on promises
am I the tree                am I the leaf
gouged by the seasons

I don’t know
what goes silent in me
when the forest
stops dreaming



Les brèches
maintiennent la vie
dans sa fragilité

l’aube s’infiltre
touche l’écorce blessée

qu’en est-il du chaos
qui flotte
dans le bégaiement des feuilles

la forêt défriche
en moi tant d’années



The gaps
sustain life
in its fragility

dawn seeps in
touches the wounded bark

what about the chaos
in the stutter of leaves

the forest lays bare
so many years in me




Hélène Dorion was born in Québec in 1958. Her first poems appeared in 1981, and since then she has published more than twenty books of poetry and fifteen artists’ books, in addition to works of fiction and memoir and a book-length essay on art and creation. She has earned many of Canada’s and Europe’s most prestigious prizes, including election to the Académie des Lettres du Québec, Chevalière de l’ordre national du Québec, the European Prix Senghor, the Mallarmé Prize and the Prix Charles-Vildrac. She has been translated and published in fifteen countries. In summer 2022, the Opéra de Montréal and the Opéra de Québec will present an opera that Dorion wrote with her close friend, Marie-Claire Blais, who died in 2021. Yourcenar – Une île de passions focuses on the world of Marguerite Yourcenar, author of Mémoires d’Hadrian (The Memoirs of Hadrian) and many other works.


Susanna Lang’s e-chapbook, Among Other Stones: Conversations with Yves Bonnefoy, was released by Mudlark: An Electronic Journal of Poetry & Poetics in June 2021, and her translation of Baalbek by Nohad Salameh was published in October 2021 by Atelier du Grand Tétras. Her third full-length collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was published in 2017 by Terrapin Books. Her poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in such publications as Prairie Schooner, december, Delos, New Poetry in Translation, American Life in Poetry, and The Slowdown. Her translations of poetry by Yves Bonnefoy include Words in Stone and The Origin of Language, and she is now working with Souad Labbize and Hélène Dorion on new translations. More information available at www.susannalang.com.


Photo by Hélène Dorion.

Dispatches from MES FORETS/MY FORESTS by Hélène Dorion

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