Monday, November 15, 2010


I heard the following prose poem on France Culture’s “Poem Of The Day” series this morning, presented by La Comédie-française. Its profound physicality struck me, a physicality emanating from the production of language. The sensations are sharp. The work is from a collection by Bernard Noël called Extraits du Corps. I hoped to find a copy at the University of Washington or Seattle Public Library, but alas, no such luck. I will have to order a copy from France. Meanwhile, here is the prose poem, titled “Insaisissables, les mots,” followed by my translation.

Les mots éclatent au ras de ma peau. Le regard est fixe et le buste conjoint bizarrement des elements mobiles et des elements immobiles. Les gestes se rassemblent à l’intérieur de la poitrine, comme les circles sur l’eau. Et le cou se prolonge loin dans le corps. C’est depuis l’estomac qu’a poussé l’abre qui empale ma gorge. Il monte jusque dans mes narines. Un court-circuit coupe le courant des nerfs dans ma nuque. C’est alors que ma tête se penche vers un lac d’argent lisse, qui tout à coup s’éparpille dans l’espace comme un bac de mercure. On me trépane pendant que mes jambes s’allongent, et perçent des nuages. D’un côté, il fait mal; de l’autre, il fait nuit. Entre les deux, une hélice tourne dans le ventre, et l’air reflue vers ma bouche… j’ai la gorge pleine de plumes, avec de bruissement agreeable. Je crache des cellules…

Words burst on my skin. The gaze is fixed and the chest strangely mingles mobile elements with immobile elements. Gestures assemble themselves at the interior of the chest, like circles on water. And the neck lengthens far into the body. Since then the stomach pushes the tree which impales my throat. It rises as far as my nostrils. A short-circuit cuts the current of my nerves in my neck. It is thus that my head leans toward the lake of smooth silver, which all at once scatters in space like a tub of mercury. They drill my skull while my legs stretch out and pierce the clouds. On one side, bad weather; on the other, night. Between the two, a propeller turns in the stomach, and the air surges back toward my mouth… I have a throat full of feathers, with an agreeable sense of rustling. I spit cells…


Norelle Done said...

Mr. Olson,

I discovered your name in a search for authors and writers who live in the Seattle area, as I am working to build a blog that features Seattle’s authors and writers and their work. The blog is very new, and can be accessed at

My reason for contacting you is the hope that you may be interested in being featured on the blog as a Seattle author. I would love the opportunity to meet with you in person, if that is possible, or even to get your answers to a few questions about you and your writing through email communication.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this comment, and I look forward to communicating with you! I really enjoyed your post above, by the way, the sensations in the poem you wrote about are beautiful!

Best wishes,

Norelle Done
Freelance Editor and Journalist
Personal Blog/Portfolio:

Heller Levinson said...

Wonderful poem, John, thanks for bringing it to us!