Thursday, June 23, 2011

Strange Review 3: William Jenkins-Braun

Today I'm posting a Strange Review written by my own husband, William Jenkins-Braun!

"Les Revues étranges, by Jean-Marc Pétard, is a nonpareil classic of French poetic criticism. First published in 1975, it initially went unnoticed by American critics, despite being adroitly translated into English by Herbert Wolters-Reader the subsequent year. By and large, this oversight was due to the massive attention directed at De la grammatologie and its translation, Of Grammatology, which was only then being published in the United States.

It was not until 2010, with the publication of a new translation by Ralph Butts and Simon Gass, that Les Revues étranges began to gain traction in American academic circles. The new translation contained an appendix by Pétard, adapted from an address he gave at Harvard University regarding the developments in Western poetry during the thirty-five years since he first wrote Les Revues étranges. Among the poets addressed therein, we find this assessment of Brett Elizabeth Jenkins:

Ce que m’interesse chez la poésie de Mlle Jenkins c’est les images. On y a des images d’une pureté qu’on ne trouve pas chez aucun poète contemporain, ni chez Bukowski, ni chez Graham. Les images qu’on découvre chez “Hello Moon” et “Message I Left Myself on the Phone” sont telles qu’on ne peut faire que les mettre avec les mieux de Charles Baudelaire. Sûrement, on ne trouve pas ailleurs leurs pareilles, cette clarté frénetique qui se délecte des choses immondes.

What interests me about Ms. Jenkins’s poetry is her images. She has such pure images in her poetry. You can’t find such pure images in the works of any other contemporary poet, neither in Bukowksi nor in Graham. The images you find in “Hello Moon” and “Message I Left to Myself on the Phone” are so great that you have to place them among Baudelaire’s best. Certainly, you don’t find their equal elsewhere; that clear frenzy that delights in disgusting things (trans. Butts & Gass).

It is a telling assessment, one that surely marks a poetic talent worth watching.

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