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Wake Forest
University Press

Wake Forest University Press

Dedicated to Irish Poetry

Wake: Up to Poetry

"The act of poetry is a rebel act."

Poem of the Week: Extract from “Trials of the Written” by Andrée Chedid

"Trials of the Written" by Andrée Chedid

In this extract from a larger work, French poet Andrée Chedid details the struggle between writer and page. Poiesis (the act of bringing into being) is the name of this struggle, and it requires both determination and endurance to overcome.

Trials of the Written

__One would like, first, to conciliate dawn, render firm the soil of gentleness, before colliding with the smooth bark of the page, before entering the unsheltered flatlands.

__Bare, sometimes hostile, the page, whose call, however, remains unceasing.

__Repulsion-attraction, desire-withdrawal, before confronting its space. Then, the inscription of the self: torrentially or drop by drop.

__Faced with this mat, level, often rebellious surface, how can one believe or hope the by dint of words, erasures, surges and relapses, a meaning, perhaps, will pierce through, reducing some darkness or orbiter, unravelling some vague skein?

__Embrace poetry in the broadest way; in the etymological sense of the word.

__Then, it becomes an “act,” it becomes a “work.” Poetry entering, its fists full, its gaze brimming, full-breathed, into life; to better seize it, to build differently.

__To experience is not enough. To translate the surge, to germinate the seed, one must bring on, mold, give shape to this jumble—or this plain-chant—from within.

__The seedings and tillings of language, that at once supple and stubborn material. The sharpening of tools. The search for form yet uncongealed into forms. Give a charge to words so that they may bind us to the mystery of life. Question language so that we may be queried in turn by it.

__Rhythms and intervals, tunings and disharmonies, teeming letters or pauses of blank space. Words confront one another, contradictions are wedded, so that the combustions, the sinuosities, the aerial movements, buried deep within us, may emerge.

__Each poem is merely an attempt, a draft, a groping forth. Each text advances unprotected, uncertain of itself, keeping our thirst for the one to come.
__An adventure without epilogue, Therein lies our fortune!
__The initial crucible never empties. The world is endlessly young, its sap ever renascent.

__Forcing open the dams, the act of writing covers derision with derision.

__If, at times, the poem offers exaltation, its fruit, more often than not, ripens in the thickets.

__The graveness of the way, frequently punctuated by a wintry silence.

__The poet’s pilgrimage is a feverish one, coming up against lambent blockages. Assisted, however, by a tinkling of the soul; sustained by some transparency, by an untouched youthfulness, which cave in the greyness of things, lift the traps, pierce through the nets, open the way to the future.

–Andrée Chedid, translated by Michael Bishop, from Women’s Poetry in France, 1965-1995 (1997)

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