Sylvie Durbec was born in Marseille and lives in Provence, near Avignon. She writes texts in both prose and poetry, as well as painting and making collages. The many books she has published over the past twenty years include the prose-poetry memoire Marseille : éclats et quartiers (Marseille, fragments and quarters) which won the prestigious Jean Follain prize; Prendre place (Takingplace) concerning the internment camp at Douadic in France and Soutine, a prose-poem about the painter, published in The Common. This year she has published 50 carrés du jour (50 squares of the day) and Ça qui me poursuit (That which pursues me).
Denis Hirson grew up in South Africa and has lived in France since 1975. He has published nine books, several concerning the memory of South Africa under apartheid. The latest, both published in 2017, are Footnotes for the Panther, ten conversations with William Kentridge, and Ma langue au chat, in French, concerning the torture and delight of speaking and writing in that language.
Table of Contents
The Ignorance of Beasts
The Ignorance of Beasts
I still don’t know how to type a tilde on a computer keyboard
when writing the name of a Spanish or Portuguese writer I love.
This month we welcome Cassandra Cleghorn to our pages, presenting poems included in her first book, Four Weathercocks, which will be published by Marick Press in March. We’re also happy to be welcoming back TC contributors David Lehman, Jonathan Moody, and Sylvie Durbec. Lehman’s new book is Sinatra’s Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World. Jonathan Moody won the Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Prize for his collection Olympic Butter Gold, published in November 2015. The book includes five poems first published in The Common. Jean Follain Prize-winner Sylvie Durbec’s poem “Shining Red in the Torrent” is offered here in its entirety, translated by Denis Hirson. An excerpt from the poem was published in The Common Issue 10.
Go to meet redness.
Reach it with all the necessary brutality.
Refuse facile images. Self-portraits. Portraits of any sort.
But go without reserve, crushing water underfoot, unyielding to the childlike pleasure of splashes against naked legs.
Go as a painter.
Roll up trouser legs, remove espadrilles and dig your will into the torrent: meet the red there, take it captive. Bury your madness in the icy water.
Without dying of this.
Without speaking of it either.
A little man walks
Through the golden dust
It is a summer’s morning
A morning fresh and mild
As other mornings, other sorrows
He walks across roads
Where no one else walks
With a tiny wooden coffin
Tucked under his arm
This story begins on a lake in the Berkshires, up among the low hills and wild blue turkeys and deep woods, up in the northeast before you get to Canada. There I am with my daughter, pulling a rowing boat out across the sand and onto the weed-thick water.