Super Greek Novice by Stéphane Bouquet

Translated by Nicholas Hauck

The slightest second that will later warm us into our hands

is worth celebrating if you can. Hesiod says that hope is the only nymph

that remained in the jar after a ruthless storm and it’s true. I 

lift the cover and eager expectation shakes itself ready for

when in a series of weeks something will happen I think. Maybe

the future will be entirely held in a quasi-haiku aflight with charming 

kiriji = all the ooh aah wow overacting the suffocating happiness of being here,

a crow rests beside wind was in trees ooh

railways consumed by grasses (or else) it was in the trees just like

beak aah wide with food a mole soil-stirring

or even, wow, someone you loved writes to say they thought of you

in the meantime. It would be best if said meantime be complete

with a set rendezvous we all strive to attend.

You’re here. I’m happy to see you again. From which point time restarts,

ditto the poem, equipped with backpack expertly prepared as per a tutorial

ideal for our risky hike. –You’re sure you brought everything? Yes and it’s

comforting to know that, passed on to survival’s next level, we’ll have

in hand a complete antivenom kit (viper, hornet, rust)

even splinter-removers just in case. From then on rain falls softly

almost suavely on tile and plant leaves, everything

calm and pacified and I follow you protected by a light k-way or surrounded

by your presence’s healing touch like the surprise appearance 

of 2 satin-oil-coated hands for massaging our muscles tight

with vigilance, aerial hope whispers on the nape of grownup rhymes

that it’s enough to murmur an ad hoc tune because a muse still

adolescent-ish – “a breath, an elf, or a sword passing through the body” 

(Madame de Duras) – just settled here. Of course, it’s often simply the world

soggy gravel squeaking 

yesternoise the downpour and does the gull

gliding uh suffer parasitosis?

and it’s true, every second is a trifle we can fondle non-

stop like an onyx lucky charm so as not to become the drowned, eyes

desire-swollen watching from the water’s other side

the enduring possibility of being human. That said, it works best when it’s

you since you’re a sort of super Erato or first-class Terpsichore 

in the hierarchy of muses, a celebrity swimmer let’s say who exits

the olympic pool already adorned with medals and hair dripping

logos as if about to declare the advent of an unprecedented

somacracy when the next calendar will be packed full of rituals mad

with proximity. Now I pause the poem long enough for you to actually buzz

the door or wait for me somewhere so that what had been promised happens.

καὶ δὴ, εἴπει τίς, τόδε τί

or shorter

Ἰδού τί εἴπει τίς

And so the promised celebrity came as expected—Aphrodite let’s say

goddess of mixis = of inseparable mixing—and it was absolute

catastrophe. She had few words to say and almost no move to make

her custom beach bag was tragically too small for the difficult

path. It was a given that we were going to die of instantaneous thirst

since producing the affects of fusion wastes as much saliva

as fields of hydrophilic avocados. All the rivers run dry 

and she quickly says “I just can’t do it” immediately slipping her blue

ironed Tommy Hilfiger (I think) shirt back on and forever packing up her hard-

cured stomach and from this point on it’s like an Aeschylus tetralogy, the dog

of the house, δωμάτων κύνα, gets to barking relentlessly hoping to find

someone somewhere able to translate the distraught yelps: pls

gimme another rub or else grab croquettes and load this belly

bursting with loneliness but bad news, there are no second helpings and even

less re-world, everything that was not harvested according to the agricultural logic

of things rots on the spot, and besides it’s gathering last summer’s 

peaches and would go on hoping to find even one while rummaging

the distant background of trees. Yet. Here, someone says, this is something.


Stéphane Bouquet is the author of eight collections of poetry, as well as essays on poetry. He has published books on filmmakers such as Sergei Eisenstein and Gus Van Sant, as well as screenplays for feature films, non-fiction films, and short films, and has translated poets including Paul Blackburn, James Schuyler, and Peter Gizzi into French. He’s also interested in performance arts and has given workshops for choreographers at the Centre National de la danse in Paris and for actors and stage directors at La Manufacture in Lausanne, Switzerland. Bouquet is a recipient of a 2003 Prix de Rome and a 2007 Mission Stendhal Award, and has been featured in France and internationally at festivals, residencies, and events, including the 2017 Frankfurt Book Fair and the 2018 Toronto Festival of Authors. He holds an M.A. in economics from Université Panthéon-Sorbonne.

Nicholas Hauck’s research and practice explores translation as an embodied encounter between different modes of expression, and the interconnectedness of text, body, and performance specifically as it relates aural/oral experiences (sound poetry, homophonics, non-human sounds). He is the author of L’inhumain poétique (2022) and Walter Benjamin (2015). In 2020 he co-founded the Toronto Experimental Translation Collective and is co-editor of the Small Walker Press. He teaches at Brock University.