Everything Happens, trans. Stacy Doris
(Sausalito: Post-Apollo Press, 2000).
Actaeon's move was unintentional
Tumbling upon Diana again and again
Fourcade, Click-Rose, trans. Keith Waldrop
Published in Paris in January of 2000, 1998's Grand Prix National
de Poésie winner Dominique Fourcade's Tout arrive
forwards a remarkable poetics registering that nation's post-Mallarméan
anxiety while safely leaving it behind as an "improvisation
fee" (31). Now, those reading in Stacy Doris' English translation
will find a great deal of provocation from a book which, despite
the clichéd claim, both proclaims and demonstrates a poetics
which is just this side of a new Continental Zen.
Fourcade narrates how, while visiting
an exposition of Mallarmé manuscripts, "two words
chose a self, nothing out of the ordinary" "Manet's
note thanking Mallarmé for his support following the Jury's
refusal of two of his paintings for the Salon of 1874
featured the heading Tout arrive ("Everything happens")
(11). The ambiguity of the phrase in French, impossible to translate
concisely, allows its significance to oscillate between something
like everything is happening; everything happens; everything arrives;
everything comes upon / alights; everything (is) coming, etc.
And, of course, it is all this at once. Fourcade allows this implied
attitude toward perception to implicate his own poetics, citing
Manet as modern in a way that Mallarmé could never quite
be: "there is no excuse for not perceiving everything at
once" (13). Rather than Mallarmé and his overwrought
mannerism, Fourcade cites Dickinson, Stein, and Oppen (as we might
expect, leaving the grittier O'Hara et al to historical myopia)
as the first to activate Manet's poetics, "because, of all
the phases spoken in a line, not one is natural in the first place"
(17). Mastery is out of the question, but constant training of
the senses is likened to a dancer's training of her / his body
for, the writer, Fourcade asserts, must "be ready
but not prepared" (19). It should come as no surprise that,
since everything happens (except, somehow, mastery), the subject
is dead. The modern (and Fourcade rejects the appellation "post-modern")
poem is an accumulation of this "everything" which is
forced back into the set of which it is made (trans-finite poetics,
if you will) by sheer necessity. It is an attitude toward perception,
an exhausting imperative, and has left the life of the subject
(unlike O'Hara, hence the otherwise pertinent link is jettisoned)
for dead. "Manet had no use for the meanwhile, and there
was nothing for him that didn't matter. That's why he's us"
Is chance / chaos / fortuity a force
or an implement? Only a "method" can decide, "only
a method can make everything happening plausible, otherwise it
is unfounded" (32-3). If it happens, why endeavor to represent
it happening? If everything happening in a poetics is foundational,
isn't the assertion that everything happens prophetic? or determining?
If chance is a force (instead of an implement) than the latter,
no? Of course, the suggestion is that it is both, in which case,
why trouble yourself with a method? "I'm sure that what's
at stake is the planning of death" (33). This is an existential
concern (though with the Zen twist); it flips back (as it did
for Sartre) on the respect of individual liberty through systems,
a "method." "[T]o go on: at the subject's dead
center, in love, frequency is the inverse of period" (24).
Patrick F. Durgin
This review originally appeared in the premier issue of 26
Patrick F. Durgin is the author
of several chapbooks of poetry; Pundits Scribes Pupils
is from Potes & Poets Press (1998); And so on is from
Texture Press (1999) and is available from Duration Press' out-of-print
archive; Sorter is from Duration Press (2001) and is downloadable
for free from the Duration Bookstore. His poetry and critical
writings have appeared in numerous small-press periodicals since
the late 90's, including 26, Aufgabe, Chain, Combo, Crayon,
Ixnay, Lipstick Eleven, Rain Taxi Review of Books, and Tripwire.
Durgin has published / presented articles and interviews on /
with poets such as Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Dominique Fourcade,
Lyn Hejinian, Andrew Levy, Nathaniel Mackey, Jackson Mac Low,
Eileen Myles, Douglas Oliver, and Rod Smith. An ongoing collaboration
with poet / translator Jen Hofer regarding a potential
"synaesthetic poetics" frequently makes its way
into print. He has translated excerpts of the daring young French
poet Jérôme Bertin's long work, "x.x. n"
and is founding editor and publisher of Kenning.