Rosemary Lloyd,
Rudy Professor of French and Italian
Indiana University, Bloomington


Set before us here is a universe created by memories, filling the air with words, so that images unfold from recollections to a rhythm of waves beating regularly in the mind, a long expanse of vision followed by a short throb of the senses, the rhythm of wing beats through the skies of summer. Yves Peyré’s poetry draws strength from the ability to convey a sense of powerful control mastering intense surges of creativity driven by memory. That sense of contrast in both the verbal and the visual ties together poetry and picture to form a whole as seamless as this extraordinary book itself, where the accordion folds of the richly textured paper offer an instantly graspable symbol of unity. A meditation on time and being, Peyré’s poetry transforms simple seaside memories into symbols of great beauty and power—the spiral of the ammonite, for instance, tracing in miniature the sweep of time from geological antiquity to the poet’s future, just as entire cityscapes can suggest themselves in the curve of a fruit and just as the sound of the sea in a spiral shell sings of loss and suffering, of the dissolution of the self followed by the self’s reconstitution through conscious acts of memory. The loss of self either through that abandonment of the senses to the chaos that leads to vertigo or to that failure of language to find the exact terms needed, a failure disparagingly summed up here as “murmuring,” is countered by the artist through the fine balance of geometrical shapes and free forms, of stasis and constantly suggested mobility, and by the poet through a determination to “snatch fragility and build consistency / deep inside this dizziness.” While memory is a dominant trope in the book—the poet’s memories of Venice, the reader’s sense of pattern created by repeated images, the artist’s evocation of memory through designs that mirror and reconstitute each other—memory is always the handmaid of creativity, what allows us to value the present by “testing the weight / of vapor and stone” and to forge our own future, drawing back the “folds of light / to take anew the path of tomorrow.”

Relatively few contemporary French poets find their works made accessible to American readers, either in the original or in translation. Felicia Rice deserves our special thanks both for bringing to our attention such a sensitive and visual poet as Yves Peyré and for creating such a vibrant artists’ book around a parallel publication of five of his poems. Close friend and sensitive critic of many poets, a specialist, too, of the nineteenth-century poet Stéphane Mallarmé, Peyré is a writer whose verse is informed not only by the traditions of the last two hundred years, but also by the avant-garde experiments of more recent poetry, especially perhaps that of Henri Michaux and André du Bouchet. In Cosmogonie intime, for example, he uses a verse form that recalls those of the past while remaining personal, a form marked by the alternation of a long line and a short line. These, moreover, are poems which through the apparent simplicity of their vocabulary and the visual beauty of their images participate in the more general return of contemporary French poetry to lyricism.

Yves Peyré has long worked with visual artists on the creation of books in which poetry and painting find a perfectly balanced partnership. He is also the author of an extensive and stimulating exploration of French artists’ books from the 1870s to the end of the twentieth century, Peinture et Poésie. Here, together with his longtime translator Elizabeth Jackson, bookmaker Felicia Rice and Rice’s artist father Ray Rice, he has created yet another superb example of what can happen when poet and painter, bookbinder and printer all share a vision that draws in equal part on the sensual and the cerebral, the visual and the verbal. In this case the end result is a re-creation of the cosmos that is both intimate and universal, as capable of conveying the familiar pleasures of the still life as it is of tracing out a chronicle of an unknown future.

Rosemary Lloyd
Rudy Professor of French and Italian
Indiana University, Bloomington

Rosemary Lloyd was educated at the universities of Adelaide, Australia (MA 1972) and Cambridge, England (Ph.D., 1978: Litt.D, 2002). She was elected to a fellowship at New Hall Cambridge in 1978 and was appointed to the faculty of Cambridge University’s French Department in 1979. She joined IU in 1990 and chaired the Department of French and Italian from 1995 to 1998. She specializes in nineteenth-century poetry and narrative, and in the interrelationship of the arts, especially poetry and painting.

Although she is best known as a scholar of Stéphane Mallarmé, she has also published monographs, editions and translations focusing on Charles Baudelaire, Théodore de Banville, and Gustave Flaubert. Her interest in comparative literature is evidenced in her monographs on the literary representation of childhood and on jealousy as a narrative strategy. She is passionately interested in teaching literature in general and poetry in particular, and is producing a cd-rom destined to facilitate students’ enjoyment of French poetry in its cultural and historical context. She has held fellowships from the Leverhume Foundation, the Camargo Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guggenheim Foundation, and serves on numerous editorial boards.


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