10 February 16 | Chad W. Post

The other day I posted some information about Rafael Chirbes and On the Edge, the prose book we’ll be reading this month in the Reading the World Book Clubs. On the poetry side of things, this month we’ll be talking about Monospace by Anne Parian, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan, and since my copy finally arrived (and I finished it last night), I thought I’d get some info up about this as well.

Before getting to that, just a reminder that anyone interested in participating in the Reading the World Book Clubs should feel free to email me their questions and comments. Or, if you’re more of a public sharer, feel free to post them in the comments section below, on Twitter at #RTWBC, or in the Facebook RTWBC Group.

Now, on to Monospace.

The Author.

There’s not a lot of information about Parian available online, at least not in English. There is this YouTube video of her reading, and the short bio from the book itself:

Anne Parian was born in Marseille in 1964 and currently lives in Paris. She is the author of seven books of poetry and hybrid works; she is also a photographer and video artist.

Which, to be honest, is longer than the one I found at P.O.L.:

Née à Marseille en 1964.

Exerce la psychanalyse à Paris.

Her first book, À la recherche du lieu de ma naissance came out in 1994, and her most recent, La Chambre du milieu, is from 2011. Monospace came out in 2007. That’s about all I’ve got.

The Translator.

From the book:

Emma Ramadan has a BA in Comparative Literature from Brown University and a Masters in Cultural Translation from the American University of Paris. Her translation of Anne Garréta’s novel Sphinx was published by Deep Vellum and her poetry has appeared in a number of journals. She recently spent a year in Marrakech translating works by the Moroccan writer Ahmed Bouanani and working with Dar al-Ma’mûn library.

A lot of people reading this will recognize Emma as the translator of Anne Garréta’s Sphinx. According to her website, she’s translating another of Garréta’s books for Deep Vellum, Not One Day, which is slated for a 2017 release. Additionally, she’s also translating The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers by Fouad Laroui for Deep Vellum, and she’s helping put together an issue of Words Without Borders dedicated to Moroccan writing.

As the recipient of a 2013 travel fellowship from the American Literary Translators Association, she’s definitely one of the top up-and-coming translators of French writing. Her dual interest in Moroccan literature and more experimental texts is really interesting as well . . .

The Publisher.

La Presse is an imprint of Fence Books and is dedicated to contemporary French poetry and hybrid-genre work translated by English-language poets. We’re a nano-press; we publish one to three books a year.

If I’m not mistaken, this is all Cole Swensen. Which, given all the other things that she does, explains why they’re publishing only a couple of books a year. So far, La Presse has brought out fourteen titles, with translations by Keith Waldrop, Eleni Sikelianos, Jean-Jacques Poucel, and several other well respected translators.

The books are beautifully produced, well-edited, wonderfully translated. I’m more or less completely outside of the poetry world, but hopefully they’re well-received as well. It’s an impressive project.

The Book.

Here’s the jacket copy:

Monospace is, first and finally, the dream of a garden. There are so many gardens—there is, of course, the story of a perfect one—and perfectly lost. So these pages gather perfumes, trees, benches, buildings, colors, and perspectives all together. They arrange a terrain, a territory, a trench, a tableau. But how, among inevitable ruins, can we create a space that can only take form as it is being described? Monospace repeats the question: “How can we garden space into existence?”

That seems about right. I’m really at a loss about how to talk about poetry books, which is one reason why I wanted to start up this part of the RTWBC—hopefully some smarter people out there, who are more keyed into contemporary poetry, can help me come to better understand and appreciate it.

The book is broken up into three sections (or maybe four, if you count the list of items that prefaces the first one, or maybe five if you count the “Index”): “The Scenery,” “I Begin Again,” and “Repetitions.”

“The Scenery” includes a fair number of footnotes, right from the start. Most of the poem involves descriptions of a landscape, but with more of a focus on the intentionality of creating/describing this landscape.

For example, here’s a simple line from the beginning:

The unique use of frankly unstable seated postures28

28. I prefer folding chairs
to rest or reflect
they perk me up
though they mock me with their garish colors

The second section, “I Begin Again,” does away with the footnotes, while ramping up the intentionality of the construction. (Again, this is my dumb interpretation/reading.)

First problem

a garden is never ideal

it resists the effects appearing without follow-through repeated with

I begin again

the roots spreading out on each side I throw the whole so that it is
under the radar of perception

of interphenomena of drawings of stains
of style

“Repetitions” is a bit tighter, but similar:

Go off often without looking
or staying
would I look for it
now that I don’t believe it
by collecting comforts
without sufficient aid or ways
without the support
of that which we
carelessly remember

The book ends with a ten-page index that seems to list the appearance of every word in the book. “drawings: 36, 45, 61, 70, 87; dream: 105; dreams: 21,50,92.” I don’t know what to make of that, except that these are maybe the individual materials for making the “monospace”? (Again, dumb. Don’t read a lot of poetry. Trying my best.)

Another Notable Thing.

According to the note at the end, the book was designed by Erica Mena, who happens to the executive director of the American Literary Translators Association. That’s a nice connection.

So go out and buy the book and send along some comments, questions, interpretations, etc. And if you’re on Facebook, join the RTWBC group! (Or use #RTWBC on the Twitters.)

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