Si rigide le desert de l’Autre / So Rigid is the Desert of the Other by France Théoret

This entry is part 20 of 38 in the series Poetry from the Other Americas


France ThéoretMore of a version, an approach, somewhere towards a translation of this experimental work from the 1970s. Probably no coincidence that, of all the random selection of poetry from Quebec to be found on the web, this impossible text drew me, since I’m more or less of the poet’s generation and marked by the explosion in women’s lives, identities and language forty years ago. Anyway, I love it. It’s incantatory. It’s feelings trying to burst out of language and almost managing to do so.

Born in Montreal in 1942, France Théoret became in the 1970s a leading figure in avant-garde and feminist writing and publishing in Quebec. She remains a prominent and prolific author of poetry, novels and socially and politically engaged non-fiction and won Quebec’s major literary award in 2012. This is from her first published work, Bloody Mary (1977).

So Rigid is the Desert of the Other

the his the hers the him the her the words of love of dreams misspoken phrases I mistake myself misspeak the dumb the dumb-arse phrases in my head yes what I said clear little words dear little girl yes she who juggles lazy afternoons of missed appointments secrets secret rendezvous where nothing happens cries and thirst the mental dumping ground so vast so dispossessed walled up in fear of words of where we’re headed of disorder right inside this body clenched so tight the belly gripes the lofty ceilings shift look fit to burst I dream it standing up or lying down I speak to you of nothing such sweet nothings these damp thighs take all the space so nothing’s left and every joint has stiffened up no circulation obligation I’m obliged to speak how could I have believed when every phrase is back-to-front when words come from behind beginning at the end unmaking discourse bit by bit as if these phrases really could read backwards or as if there were a hole as my own body has a hole through which I might reverse my skin from end to end might turn it inside out all red all rough as I imagine it a torture to the eyes and dumb with terror then my body not my words Oh I misspeak! I have misspoken as I see you as I saw you raging fires of Saint John these words that should be chased away pushed back not gone but silenced silenced silenced not the same at all the sign in place the arse the innocence of head of arse from arse to head from head to arse a bridge of words


The hours the days the years the depths the weariness of lazy afternoons. I watch myself. I’m keeping a close eye. So rigid is the desert of the Other.

Si rigide le désert de l’Autre

d’il d’elle de lui d’elle les mots de l’amour rêves phrases déparlantes je me dépare je déparle les phrases si muettes dans ma tête je me répète comme une petite fille si claires oui oui jongleuse des fins d’après-midi rendez-vous manqués puis masqués masque rien n’arrive les cris la soif l’ordure mentale si grande si dépossédée emmurée dans la peur des mots du sens de la marche le désordre jusque dans le corps crispé ça serre au ventre ça remue les hauts plafonds qui vont éclater je rêve debout couchée je te parle de rien de tellement rien les cuisses humides prennent toute la place plus rien toutes les jointures se bloquent finie la circulation l’obligation je suis obligée de parler pourquoi l’avoir cru les phrases s’inversent les mots viennent par-derrière commencer par la fin défaire bout pour bout le discours comme si c’était possible les phrases commencent par la fin comme s’il y avait trou comme il y a un trou dans mon corps à partir duquel je pourrais retourner bout pour bout ma peau par l’envers rouge j’imagine rugueuse torture pour les yeux muette de terreur mon corps non mes phrases oh ! je déparle oh ! j’ai déparlé comme je te vois comme je t’ai vu les hauts fourneaux de saint-jean-de-dieu les mots qui devraient filer vite nets ou bloquer non pas bloquer mais se taire se taire se taire ça n’est pas pareil le geste à la place le cul est innocence de la tête et du cul du cul à la tête de la tête au cul une traversée des mots


Les heures les jours les années l’épaisseur le sommeil les fatigues des fins d’après-midi. Je me surveille de près. Je me tiens à l’œil. Si rigide le désert de l’Autre.

Series Navigation← Pain without explanation: five poems by César VallejoMapping a different star: five poems by Gabriela Mistral →


4 Replies to “Si rigide le desert de l’Autre / So Rigid is the Desert of the Other by France Théoret”

  1. This is a real tour de force, Jean – magnificent! Shades of Beckett, who of course wrote in French. But I love what you’ve done with the piece, representing it faithfully but in your own voice.

  2. Yes, I agree, magnifique. As Dick said, I like that this is your own response to the text rather than simply a translation. It’s a challenging piece and you’ve more than met the challenge.

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