Once upon a time, I kept another blog. I then tore it down, one of my many reinventions.
Last week, I remembered an entry that took a forever to assemble; including contacting “The Paris Review” about copyright information, and getting the indentations and line spacing perfected. Love’s labors, now buried. “I’d really like to have those Georges Perec poems up and available on the web,” I thought.
I searched my hard drive.
No, I scoured it.
The morning’s coincidences: I found that entry and those poems. My old blog, now protected and long giving no one access, including myself, finally gave itself over to my eyes.
This after unsuccessful years of attempts.
The day had no thought of Georges Perec. The locked blog opened by accident, as I hit the wrong link on old browser tab, an antiquated browser that I had switched to for only Goddess knows what reason this morning.
I was in the door, having jumped through space and time into a long lost portal. And voilà! Georges et son chat, and the three poems.
Here is that lost entry. My gift to the world today, giving Georges Perec back to it.
(Edited to add: The Paris Review now has the first of these epithalamia available on their site. The other two require a PR subscription.)
From February 28, 2011 (no redaction):
I’m returning to my blog with a very special entry, one I’ve had in mind for sometime: making available three poems by Georges Perec.
I discovered these over two decades ago in a Winter 1989 issue of The Paris Review, and they’ve been venerated treasures since. Despite my efforts over several years, I was unable to find them in any published anthology, or find any publishing information on them.
I contacted The Paris Review and inquired how I might go about getting permission to post them here. During my query, I was informed that The Paris Review did not own the rights to these poems. The estate of Georges Perec does. Who or what that is, I am not certain.
I assume the estate will not sue me for copyright infringement: should the estate be offended, please accept my apologies in advance.
Perec deserves more attention than he is given, and these songs, buried in a 1989 issue of The Paris Review, and available otherwise only to the handful of people who perchance purchase that back issue, need to be available to readers of this playful, imaginative wordsmith.
Harry Mathews, who translated these three songs from the French, notes the following: These three “nuptial songs” date from 1980 and 1981; they first appeared as pamphlet 19 in this series published as La Bibliothèque oulipienne. I found it impossible to keep in translation the attractive procedure the author followed in writing them, limiting himself to the letters and the names of bride and groom.
Where three quoted phrases appear in the second poem, I have substituted Wallace Stevens for Stéphen Mallarmé. — H.M.
Three Epithalamia by Georges Perec
Epithalamium for Sophie Binet and Michel Dominault
On this beautiful Saturday in May Sophie has married Michel and Michel has married Sophie
They have married and they are now together like Aucassin and Nicolette and like nut cake and honey like hand and piano table and chair soup and ladle tench and hook science and doubt pen and drawing dove and millet hospital and silence candle and bed warmer chamomile tea and Madeline and even couscous and chickpeas
It's a delectable morning the sun lights up the countryside bee's are gathering honey a butterfly delicately alights by a mimosa sheep are bleating in the distance bells are ringing everything is calm and peaceful
At the very end of the little wood the vast planet begins its lakes its oceans it steppes its hills its plains its oases its sand dunes its palaces its museums its islands its ports of call its lovely automobiles glistening in the rain its white-bonneted Salvationists singing carols on Christmas Eve its bowlered worthies in conference at the tabac on Place Saint Sulpice its mustachio'd sea captains exuding patchouli and lilac its tennis champions hugging at the end of a match its Indians with their calumet seated by a sandalwood totem pole its mountain climbers attacking Popocatapetl its eager canoeist paddling down the Mississippi its Anabaptists mischievously nodding their heads as they discuss the Bible its little Balinese women dancing on cocoa plantations its philosophers in peak caps arguing about Condillac's ideas in outmoded tea rooms its pinup girls in bathing suits astride docile elephants its impassive Londoners bidding a no-trump little slam
But here the sky is blue Let's forget the weight of the world a bird is singing at the very top of the house cats and dogs drowse by the fireplace where a huge log flow be burning up You hear the ticking of the clock
This little poem where only simple words been used words like daisy and broomstick like lady-bird and cream sauce like croissant and nonchalance and not words like palimpsest, pitchblende, cumulonimbus, decalcomania, stethoscope, machicolation, or anticonstitutionally has been specially composed on the occasion of these nuptials
Let us wish Sophie and Michel years and years of rejoicing
like the thousand years gone by in which Philemon and Baucis each May are born into the world she as linden, he as oak
Lines read at the wedding of Alix-Cléo Blanchette and Jacques Roubaud
Alix-Cléo has married Jacques and Jacques has married Alix-Cléo
This is a fortunate coincidence and so today they are both allied and bound together in the manner of bird and branch of Aucassin and Nicollette of table and chair of science and doubt of desert and oasis of linden and oak of ink and story of day and night of oblivion and vestige of bee and maple
It's a lovely June day the sun is shining above Ile de la Cité on their transistor radios booksellers at their stalls are listening to Heinrich Biber's Rosary Sonatas harassed tourist climb the steps of Sacré-Coeur on rue de la Huchette blue-jeaned Dutchman are playing banjos and bagpipes
The whole world stretches out around us its unfathomable oceans its lakes, its steppes, its streams, its hills and permafrost its sand dunes, its hidden treasures, its islands, its ports of call its “black gold” and “white coal” its bauxites and rare terrains its basilicas, its haunted castles, its ruined keeps its Salvationists in pastel–pink raincoats singing carols on Christmas Eve its bespectacled notaries reading their evening paper by the light of oil lamps its retired colonels in conference at the tabac on Rue Saint- Louis-en-l'Ile its disbanding revellers emerging from outmoded nightclubs its slant-eyed Cossacks paddling down the Yenisei in birch– bark canoes its day–trippers in berets attacking the Balloon d'Alsace its austere Jansenists reciting the Old Testament its circus ballerinas standing on their obedient chargers its D. Litt.'s arguing about Judeo-Christian expression in the discourse of Hölderlin its obese Irishwomen buying cans of beer and salted pickles in a Bronx delicatessen
Here the sky is blue or soon will be Let's forget the age's stridencies tornadoes and fog Let's listen to the birds singing the cats purring in the library alongside Bescherelle's Dictionary quiet daily sounds the heart beating
These occasional lines which do not concern either purple balustrades or sunken coral water-walled or concupiscent curds or lady-birds or subterranean locusts or the Constitution of Eighteen Forty-Eight have been written for the inauguration of this betrothal
Let us wish Alix-Cléo and Jacques years of rejoicing and happiness Let us salute them and to the east may the black jet of extreme youth salute them and to the south may the turquoise blue adulthood salute them and to the west may the yellow abalone of nothingness salute them that cannot be conceived of or spoken and to the north made the white shell of the Resurrection salute them
and may the Southern Cross salute them and made the evening star salute them and every constellation and every nebula and may they at break of dawn when the surround whitens journey full circle around the edge of earth and heaven
Wedding of Kmar Bendana and Noureddine Mechi
My lady of rare amber Armada moored in the roads of Madeira Ebony tree Marble meander
Year after year finding me ready to surrender
Unimaginable laughter of Dido or Aeneas Dune smell Golden cloud Rut flooded with a last shower
Saying nothing Knitting a calico quilt
Queen in king made one
Board my forsaken drake Nomad of my shadow world
Give me my name My savior My soul
Give me that murmuring the echo route where this speaking begins My fired heart disturbs black ash Rough whisper of a golden horn Chrome or mercury illusion
An unknown rending of sweetness Mine, like my own trembling
My love my golden number beautiful sweeper of my mist beautiful burglar of my clouds knot at the confines of my dwelling a blindfold embroidered with dawn
Black ink determines this still slender code the world's unscathed memory A rock, menhir, warehouse Dormant chemistry of a gigantic oil rig Cherokee Indian, Chinese orchid
A cedarwood chest of drawers, A smell of beeswax, bark, caraway
Admire in my mirror My bride wreathed in dawn My Queen, my Diana, my Golden Bream, A sprig of arum diffuses its scent Laughing over nothings over a crumb, over a loosened ribbon over a swim at the beach over someone singing to the beat of a derbouka
Loving enough to die
Ancient spell Rooted in the very heart of this modern world
like sweetwater like a hoop, a round, a piece of chalk a marketplace in Manchuria a tile in the corridor fragrance of coriander a cadence on an accordion
My friend my own heart Give me an iron memory of this world curved like a locust An armored memory Memory of my own Rue du Caire Memory of the buccaneer of Cerberus's deck hand at the edge of a carbon sea
Happiness consecrated to my noontime concord to the marble of my dwelling in the murmurings of my mouth Hot shadow of my diadem A radio crackles a love ballad a fly drones Babouche in a corner of my room a dog barks
Sunday, on Rue du Maroc Sunday