Dorianne Laux, interview by Hélène Cardona

Dorianne Laux, interview by Hélène Cardona
February 23, 2019 Cardona Hélène

photo by John Campbell
Dorianne Laux’s most recent collection Only As the Day is Long: New and Selected (W.W. Norton, 2019) has been hailed by Kwame Dawes as “a tour de force, a work of striking beauty and humanity—a work for its own time.” The Washington Post writes that “Laux shows us how to endure hardships without losing humanity and compassion. This timely, beautifully crafted collection wonderfully balances light and dark.”

She is also author of The Book of Men (W.W. Norton, 2011), winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize, Facts about the Moon (W.W. Norton, 2005), recipient of the Oregon Book Award and short-listed for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, Awake (Boa Editions, 1990), What We Carry Carry (Boa Editions, 1994), finalist for the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, Smoke (Boa Editions, 2000), Superman: The Chapbook (Red Dragonfly Press, 2008), Dark Charms (Red Dragonfly Press, 2010), and The Book of Women (Red Dragonfly Press, 2012).

She is the co-author of the celebrated text The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry.

Her work has received three “Best American Poetry” Prizes, a Pushcart Prize, two fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2001, she was invited by late poet laureate Stanley Kunitz to read at the Library of Congress.

In 2014 singer/songwriter Joan Osborne adapted her poem “The Shipfitter’s Wife” and set it to music on her album “Love and Hate.”

In 2001, she was invited by then United States Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz to read at the Library of Congress.

Widely anthologized in America, her work has appeared in the Best of APR, The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, and The Best of the Net.

Dorianne Laux teaches poetry and directs the MFA program at North Carolina State University and she is founding faculty at Pacific University’s Low Residency MFA Program. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband, poet Joseph Millar. In an interview for Readwritepoem, she states that “Poems keep us conscious of the importance of our individual lives.”

I had the pleasure and honor of translating What We Carry into French. It was published by Éditions du Cygne in Paris in 2014. Dorianne’s poems are sensual, passionate, grounded in the earth and everyday life. They are testimonies of rites of passage. They talk about motherhood, work, love, sisterhood, and reveal deep sorrows and joys, as well as acts of kindness and redemption.


Hélène Cardona is the author of seven books, more recently the award- winning bilingual collection Life in Suspension, Hemingway Grant winner Beyond Elsewhere (Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac, tr.), Walt Whitman’s Civil War Writings (WhitmanWeb, tr.), and Birnam Wood.


When did you start writing?

At around 12 years old.


Does place influence your writing?

Not as much as I’d like. A couple of my students at NC State went to NYU for graduate work.  One of the things they had in common was an attachment to place- Matthew Wimberley writes poems about his backwoods home in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Scott Brownlee writes about his small town of Llano, Texas.  They met Javier Zamora there who immigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador and writes about feeling torn between two homes.  They formed a group and called themselves “The Localists,” those who “emphasize place-based writing.”  I wish I could belong.


We were a Navy family and moved around quite a bit so I may have learned early not to get too attached to a place.  We did finally settle in San Diego and the desert landscape has found its way into my poems over the years.  Alaska was magical but I’ve only written one poem about it, “Juneau Spring.” I lived in Berkeley, California for years but can’t remember a single poem I wrote about it, though that time is well chronicled in other ways.  The move to Oregon brought about a few poems like “The Life of Trees.” North Carolina has been an interesting place to live with its natural beauty and its complicated history, but again, few poems have come out of it.


How important for you is where you came from?

Again, not as important as I feel it could be.  I was born in Maine but left too early to be influenced by it, though my mother and her sister were full of “Mainisms.” Here’s a good list on-line.
Many of these terms were used in our household in San Diego, California where I learned how to speak in beach lingo.
And I read a lot so my vocabulary developed into quite an amalgam.  I also never knew my grandparents on either side so there was little lore passed down and no sense of history.  I simply grew, like a weed. As a result, I envy those who have a very strong sense of where they came from and who they are.


What is your process when writing poetry? Do you have a ritual? Who do you share your work with before submitting it or publishing it? Do you listen to Joe, and do you also help him edit his poetry?

Joe and I enjoy working side by side, occasionally handing each other a draft.  We tend to be one another’s best readers in that we know the other’s work intimately and over a long period of time so we can readily see overused themes, images and language and steer each other toward something fresher, deeper, truer.  We also love one another’s poems, so we are always coming from a place of admiration.  We’ve seen and celebrated enough of one another’s successes to be honest about our failures. Joe tends to cut and I tend to open things up.  I’m long-winded and prone to flights and he’s sparer, more judicious, so our individual critique styles work well for us.  We share and discuss poems, books, and essays about poetry we’re reading, he more than me—he’s a voracious reader—so we have our own little one room schoolhouse.


What is it like to be married to Joseph Millar? You are both poets and teachers. Can you tell us about your relationship? Did you meet though poetry?

Yes, we met when he came to a small private workshop I was teaching in Marin.  It was a small group of older adults.  Everyone came in after work on a week night so many were still in their work clothes.  Joe, who worked for a telephone company, would come in his boots and toolbelt, a pager clipped to his jeans.  I fell in love with his poems, and him, though it would be years before we actually got together.

I tremendously enjoyed translating What We Carry (Ce que nous portons, Editions du Cygne, Paris) into French. You spent some time in Paris. Can you share your experience?

Oh Paris was glorious!  I’m French, and so I had always wanted to go.  My mother used to sing us French songs before bed, Alouette, Frère Jacques, and Au clair de la lune which she also played on her piano.  We were taught our numbers and a few words, but we were never taught to speak the language.  The only time we heard it spoken was when we visited my mother’s sister.  They would chatter on in French and I’m sure they were telling secrets and discussing issues not meant for children’s delicate ears.  It was beautiful, like music, and so the language became for me a lesson of tempo and emphasis, of lilt and fall and flourish. That mystery, along with true music, probably influenced me most of all—the sound of a wordless language that contained pure emotion.  At any rate, it was my dream to go there and be surrounded by that language and so when my husband received a Guggenheim grant one year, he offered to take me to Paris.  I was so touched, and told him so, but said the grant was for his dream, not mine.  He then told me it was his dream to take me to Paris.  And this is one of the many reasons I love him.


You tell stories.  Move. Touch deeper truths. How has your poetry defined you and how do you define it? Has it changed you?

I’m not sure I can define poetry except that it’s something that defies definition.  Poetry is a slippery beast, a shape changer, a beast with wings, a bird/dog, a hermaphrodite, a water bearer and light bringer, the life force rendered through language, a sieve, a chute, a cone of darkness, an aggregate stone.  It’s changed me by reading it, though not in a way I can speak of.  It’s a feeling inside a thought inside an image.  It hunts me down. It haunts what haunts me. It changes me while I write it in that I lose myself inside it, making me weightless and colorless, fragile and fearless.  It’s always been with me, even before I knew what it was, it ran ahead of me as I walked through the world, making me look around and take it in through my senses, stop and stare, or listen, or smell or touch or taste until the object of my attention no longer possessed a name, and then poetry dared me to name it.


Last fall I served as a mentor for AWP’s Writer to Writer program. It meant a lot for me to do this because I didn’t have one when I started writing and having someone support and believe in you is important. It also creates bridges between writers. Philip Levine was your mentor. How did he help you?I love the poem “Mine Own Phil Levine” from The Book of Men. Can you share something about him and the poem? And the gold pen? I’ll quote the last lines:

“He said If you don’t write, it won’t
Get written. No tricks. No magic
About it. He gave me his gold pen
He said What’s mine is yours.”


The poem was directly inspired by W.S. Merwin’s poem about Phil’s teacher. John Berryman. If you put the poems side by side you’ll see exactly how it was assembled, line by line, stanza by stanza, from Merwin’s words and phrases.  Phil was a great mentor to me, and though I never took classes from him, he was my greatest teacher, as were his poems.  I wanted to memorialize that relationship as Phil had with Berryman.  I was lucky enough to read with him in a small bar in New York and unveil my poem to him there.  This was a few years before he died which has left a huge hole in my life and heart.  Phil collected beautiful pens from around the world. One day when we were visiting him and Franny on our yearly pilgrimage to Fresno, he reached into his desk and gave me one of his pens.  He said, “I think there’s a few good poems left in this one.”





I will tell you what he told me

in the years just after the war

as we then called

the second world war


don’t lose your arrogance yet he said

you can do that when you’re older

lose it too soon and you may

merely replace it with vanity


just one time he suggested

changing the usual order

of the same words in a line of verse

why point out a thing twice


he suggested I pray to the Muse

get down on my knees and pray

right there in the corner and he

said he meant it literally


it was in the days before the beard

and the drink but he was deep

in tides of his own through which he sailed

chin sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop


he was far older than the dates allowed for

much older than I was he was in his thirties

he snapped down his nose with an accent

I think he had affected in England


as for publishing he advised me

to paper my wall with rejection slips

his lips and the bones of his long fingers trembled

with the vehemence of his views about poetry


he said the great presence

that permitted everything and transmuted it

in poetry was passion

passion was genius and he praised movement and invention


I had hardly begun to read

I asked how can you ever be sure

that what you write is really

any good at all and he said you can’t


you can’t you can never be sure

you die without knowing

whether anything you wrote was any good

if you have to be sure don’t write



Can you share with us how The Book of Men came together? And its delightful cover?

My husband actually collected the poems and ordered them.  This happened because he had asked me to send him all my new poems in a file so that if anything went wrong with my computer he’d have them all on his computer.  A fail safe backup system before The Cloud and Carbonite.  So I did, and he decided to also make hard copies of the poems so I would have them all in one place for readings.  A few hours later he came back and said “You know, I think you have a book here.”  I said “Really.  And what’s the title of this book?”  He said “It’s called The Book of Men.”  Then he handed it to me.  It’s nice to have a genius in the house.

Norton came up with the cover. I made some suggestions but they weren’t impressed.   At first, I wasn’t sure I liked it.  It felt so obvious with its basket of mushrooms, one that looked perilously close to a penis!  But all the friends I sent it to did like it and so I trusted them.  The further joke of the cover is that the “basket”, if you look closely, is a pair of men’s tidy whities. Jason Holley is the artist and has published his illustrations on the covers of every magazine you can imagine, from The New Yorker to Rolling Stone. My cover was originally published in Men’s Health for an article called “Penis Facts.”  You can see the full image titled “Underplants” here:


What is the best advice you received?

My best advice came to me in a dream when Jack Gilbert sat at a white desk in a white room wearing a white robe and told me, “Don’t write sissy poems. And don’t be in collusion with your own poems.”


What’s a piece of advice you can share with poets?

Keep the faith.


What are your favorite (recent or not so recent) books, films, or plays?

I can’t tell enough people to read the novel Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.  It was so good that I felt I needed to follow it up with another very good choice and I’d heard from trusted friends that they had liked H is for Hawk.  It came right up to the plate.  That was followed by Willy Vlautin’s Lean on Pete.  For poetry I’ve been reading manuscripts for contests most of the summer and it’s been hard to choose as there is so much good poetry out there.  That said I can’t wait to read Ada Limon’s new book, The Carrying, which I will soon as we’ve invited her to read at NC State in the Spring. I loved Bright Dead Things. We just binge watched all 3 seasons of Detectorists, a British TV series that felt like a long poem.  Reading Kwame Dawes’ She’s Gone right now. Instead of a movie or play, I’ll mention a binge worthy British series called Detectorists which is the closest thing to poetry I’ve seen on television.  Another wonderful writer I trust, Molly Gloss, suggested it and we will be forever indebted to her for that as well as her stories.


I loved H is for Hawk. It deeply affected me as my father was dying at the time. What are you currently up to?

My New and Selected is coming out in January 2019.  It’s called Only As the Day is Long which is something my mother used to say.  All the new poems in the collection are about my depression era mother who was difficult and complicated but also my muse.  She died in 2010.


Five poems by Dorianne Laux

Followed by three poems from What We Carry (Boa Editions, 1994) by Dorianne Laux

French translations from Ce que nous portons (Éditions du Cygne, 2014) by Hélène Cardona




When I see him sliding toward me,

parting the grass, his long body flaring

in the noon sun, a black comet

riding the earth, sawdust

from the chicken coop

on his beautiful blunt nose,

my breath catches in my throat

and my fangs tremble.

I don’t know his name,

but I don’t care.  He tips his head

up above my back and runs

his soft blonde belly scales

along my spine.  I can’t tell you

how fine it is to feel

all 200 vertebrae quiver at once.

He’s my pleasure stranger.  Forgive me.

I let him braid himself around me,

all the way up to my heart.

And when he enters me I twist

my tail tighter to receive him,

our bodies a raised and knotted scar,

our muscles flexed and bulging, shining

like the darkest wet clay, until

all we know is this ordinary day:

his head grazing my sleek umber neck,

the red pearls of his eyes seized by light.




It is believed that Ho Chi Minh worked at the Carlton Hotel from 1913-1917 where he may have encountered the American actress Mae West.


On a summer evening, they join forces, Mae

in her gown of tears, Ho Chi Minh

in his kitchen apron stained

with duck blood and grease.


She poses before him, saying

A hard man is good to find

and he replies, I move with all the dignity 

of an ancient government official.


She says A man’s kiss is his signature.

He says, When the prison doors are opened, 

the real dragon will fly out.


This is when he slides his tongue

in her mouth and they collapse

on the seal tile floor like knives,

eyes glazed as the bottoms of copper pots.


Mae’s breasts tumble from her dress

and he says, by reading them 

again and again finally I was able 

to grasp the essential part. 


She touches his thigh and says

I speak two languages: Body and English.

I’ve been things and seen places…


The chandelier at the Carlton is still lighting up

their room in the sky, the tea leaves speaking

from the bottoms of their cups:


He says, Love other human beings 

as you would love yourself.

She says, I never loved another person 


the way I loved myself.





I can point to the exact place in my chest

where James Taylor’s voice reverberates.

I have no defense against that tenor, those

minor keys. It rushes through the aisles of my body

like a priest on dope, trailing smoke, his crucifix

caught in the folds of his robe.  I can know

anything I want to know, but my body reveals me.

I sink down beneath the notes, each light-cracked step.

There are nights I jerk awake as if the phone

had rung.  But there’s no sound except

the refrigerator humming, the joists creaking

in the cold.  I watch moonlight move

across the wall and it’s as if I could touch

my own sadness, the rooms flung with filaments

that loom in the pockets of my closed eyes.

There’s no accounting for it.  I open my mouth

and sing Sweet Baby James.  I cross my hands

over my breasts like a woman who is happy to die.





Who was the man who ran the bait stand,

wiry and bluff, his cap’s faded logo,

a hooked fish faint, barely there,

sitting on an upturned milk crate at a card table,

igloo coolers filled with glass eels set like a row

of salt box houses, red with squat white roofs,

near a roadside patch of briars, a black-domed grill

cooking up a batch of hotdogs, white bread buns

wrapped in re-used tin foil, puffs of steam

escaping from the cracked blackened folds,

some unnamable, maybe flammable, amber liquid

in a mason jar from which he sipped as the sun

blared down, blot on the blue summer sky?


This is a portrait of the father I never knew,

a snapshot taken by my mother the year

before I was born, before he left this photograph

to work with the other men filing  into

the brick paper mill along the Kennebec River,

the roped backs of his hands growing paler

each day, sawdust on his shoes, duff in his lungs.

But weren’t they beautiful?  Those nights

on the dance floor. Her black satin skirt.

Her ankles flashing. His white cuffs rolled up,

exposing his wrists as he spun her.


Where is it written that a man must love the child

he fathers, hold her through the night and into

the shank of morning, must work to feed her,

clothe her, stuff trinkets in his pockets, hide one

in a mysterious hand held behind his back,

telling her to choose?  It’s anyone’s guess.

I will never know the man who sat by the road

that lead to the ocean, though I swam

between his hip bones, lived in that kingdom,

that great secret sea, my heart

smaller than a spark inside a tadpole

smaller than a grain of salt.





I’m tired. But I get up anyway.

I walk until my feet stop hurting.


I remember Grace,

hiking a path near the Willamette,

how each step made her wince,

but she stobbed along beside us

with determination, her mind

reeling, leaving stories snagged

on the branches we brushed past.

The pain gave her clarity

and focus, and when she laughed

I could hear tenderness near

the edges, a kind of smarting,

throbbing pleasure that hurt up

out of her.  She refused pity,

would not accept defeat, would

not stand for it, not even from her feet.



Three poems from What We Carry (Boa Editions, 1994) by Dorianne Laux

French translations from Ce que nous portons (Éditions du Cygne, 2014) by Hélène Cardona


 The Ebony Chickering

My mother cooked with lard she kept
in coffee cans beneath the kitchen sink.
Bean-colored linoleum ticked under her flats
as she wore a path from stove to countertop.
Eggs cracked against the lips of smooth
ceramic bowls she beat muffins in,
boxed cakes and cookie dough.
It was the afternoons she worked toward,
the smell of onions scrubbed from her hands,
when she would fold her flowered apron
and feed it through the sticky refrigerator
handle, adjust the spongy curlers on her head
and wrap a loud Hawaiian scarf into a tired knot
around them as she walked toward her piano,
the one thing my father had given her that she loved.
I can still see each gold letter engraved
on the polished lid she lifted and slid
into the piano’s dark body, the hidden hammers
trembling like a muffled word,
the scribbled sheets, her rough hands poised
above the keys as she began her daily practice.
Words like arpeggio sparkled through my childhood,
her fingers sliding from the black bar of a sharp
to the white of a common note. “This is Bach,”
she would instruct us, the tale of his name hissing
like a cat. “And Chopin,” she said, “was French,
like us,” pointing to the sheet music. “Listen.
Don’t let the letters fool you. It’s best
to always trust your ear.”

She played parts of fugues and lost concertos,
played hard as we kicked each other on the couch,
while the meat burned and the wet wash wrinkled
in the basket, played Beethoven as if she understood
the caged world of the deaf, his terrible music
pounding its way through the fence slats
and the screened doors of the cul-de-sac, the yards
where other mothers hung clothes on a wire, bent
to weeds, swept the driveways clean.
Those were the years she taught us how to make
quick easy meals, accept the embarrassment
of a messy house, safety pins and rick-rack
hanging from the hem of her dress.
But I knew the other kids didn’t own words
like fortissimo and mordanttreble clef
and trill, or have a mother quite as elegant
as mine when she sat at her piano,
playing like she was famous,
so that when the Sparklets man arrived
to fill our water cooler every week
he would lean against the doorjamb and wait
for her to finish, glossy-eyed
as he listened, secretly touching the tips
of his fingers to the tips of her fingers
as he bowed, and she slipped him the check.



Le Chickering d’ébène


Ma mère cuisinait avec du lard qu’elle conservait

dans des boîtes de café sous l’évier de la cuisine.

Le linoléum couleur de haricot tictaquait sous ses chaussures

plates qui couraient du fourneau au plan de travail.

Les œufs se brisaient sur les lèvres du bol

en céramique lisse dans lequel elle les battait pour les muffins,

la préparation des gâteaux et la pâte à biscuits.

En fait, tout son être aspirait à l’entraînement de l’après-midi !

Les mains brossées et vierges de toute odeur d’oignon,

le moment où elle repliait son tablier fleuri

et le glissait dans la poignée crasseuse

du réfrigérateur, s’ajustait les bigoudis spongieux sur la tête

et les couvrait d’un foulard hawaïen criard

paresseusement noué, tandis qu’elle s’approchait du piano,

la seule chose que mon père lui avait donnée qu’elle aimait.

Je revois encore chaque lettre d’or gravée

sur le couvercle verni qu’elle soulevait et glissait

à l’intérieur du corps sombre du piano, les marteaux cachés

tremblant comme un mot retenu,

les feuilles griffonnées, ses mains rugueuses suspendues

au-dessus des touches quand elle commençait ses exercices journaliers.

Mon enfance fut illuminée de mots tels qu’arpeggio,

ses doigts glissant de la touche noire d’un dièse

à celle, blanche, d’une note ordinaire. Ceci est Bach,

nous enseignait-elle, la sonorité de fin de Bach s’entendant

tel le chuintement du chat. Et Chopin, disait-elle, était français,

comme nous, en montrant la feuille de musique. Écoutez.

Ne laissez pas les notes vous tromper. C’est mieux

de toujours vous confier à votre oreille.


Elle jouait des morceaux de fugues et de concerts,

jouait fort alors que nous nous battions sur le divan,

tandis que la viande brûlait et que le linge mouillé se froissait

dans le panier, elle jouait Beethoven comme si elle comprenait

le monde captif du sourd, sa terrible musique

traçant son chemin à travers les lattes de la barrière

et les portes grillagées du cul-de-sac, les jardins

où les autres mères étendaient leurs vêtements, se penchaient

pour désherber, nettoyaient les allées à grands coups de balai.

Ces années-là elle nous apprit à faire

des repas simples et rapides, à accepter la gêne

d’une maison en désordre, les épingles de nourrice

et la ganse en zigzag accrochés à l’ourlet de sa robe.

Mais je savais que les autres enfants n’avaient pas accès

à des mots comme fortissimo et mordant, clé de sol

et trille, et n’avaient pas une mère tout aussi élégante

que la mienne quand elle s’asseyait au piano,

jouant comme si elle était célèbre,

si bien que lorsque l’homme de Sparklets arrivait chaque

semaine pour remplir notre distributeur d’eau réfrigérée,

il se penchait dans l’embrasure de la porte et écoutait,

les yeux brillants, attendait qu’elle finisse,

effleurant subrepticement ses doigts

du bout des siens, la tête baissée,

au moment où elle lui glissait le chèque.



Late October


Midnight.  The cats under the open window,

their guttural, territorial yowls.


Crouched in the neighbor’s driveway with a broom,

I jab at them with the bristle end,


chasing their raised tails as they scramble

from bush to bush, intent on killing each other.


I shout and kick until they finally

give it up; one shimmies beneath the fence,


the other under a car.  I stand in my underwear

in the trembling quiet, remembering my dream.


Something had been stolen from me, valueless

and irreplaceable.  Grease and grass blades


were stuck to the bottoms of my feet.

I was shaking and sweating.  I had wanted


to kill them.  The moon was a white dinner plate

broken exactly in half.  I saw myself as I was:


forty-one years old, standing on a slab

of cold concrete, a broom handle slipping


from my hands, my breasts bare, my hair

on end, afraid of what I might do next.



Fin octobre


Minuit. Les chats sous la fenêtre ouverte,

leurs miaulements rauques, territoriaux.


Accroupie dans l’allée des voisins, munie d’un balai,

je donne des coups de son extrémité chevelue,


poursuivant leurs queues dressées alors qu’ils se précipitent

de buisson en buisson, résolus à se tuer.


Je crie et gigote jusqu’à ce que, finalement,

ils abandonnent ; l’un se faufile sous la clôture,


l’autre sous une voiture. Debout dans mes sous-vêtements,

frémissante et calme, je me rappelle mon rêve.


Quelque chose m’avait été dérobé, sans grande valeur

et irremplaçable. Du lubrifiant et des brins d’herbes


s’étaient collés sous mes pieds.

Je tremblais et transpirais. J’avais voulu


les tuer. La lune était une grande assiette blanche

fendue exactement en deux. Je me vis telle que j’étais :


à quarante et un ans, debout sur un bloc

de béton, un manche à balai me glissant


des mains, les seins nus, cheveux dressés,

tétanisée de ce que je serais capable de faire.



For The Sake Of Strangers


No matter what the grief, its weight,

we are obliged to carry it.

We rise and gather momentum, the dull strength

that pushes us through crowds.

And then the young boy gives me directions

so avidly. A woman holds the glass door open,

waits patiently for my empty body to pass through.

All day it continues, each kindness

reaching toward another – a stranger

singing to no one as I pass on the path, trees

offering their blossoms, a retarded child

who lifts his almond eyes and smiles.

Somehow they always find me, seem even

to be waiting, determined to keep me

from myself, from the thing that calls to me

as it must have once called to them –

this temptation to step off the edge

and fall weightless, away from the world.



 Pour la grâce des inconnus


Quelque soit le chagrin, son poids,

nous sommes obligés de le porter.

Nous nous levons et attrapons le rythme, avec cette force

monotone qui nous pousse à travers la foule.

Et c’est là que le jeune garçon m’indique le chemin

avec tant de fougue. Une femme me tient ouverte la porte

vitrée, attend patiemment que mon corps vide la franchisse.

Toute la journée cela se reproduit, une bonté

faisant le relais à une autre – un inconnu

qui chante à personne quand je passe sur son chemin,

les arbres offrant leurs fleurs, un enfant, retardé,

qui lève ses yeux en amande et sourit.

D’une manière ou d’une autre ils me trouvent toujours,

ils semblent même attendre, déterminés à me protéger

de moi-même, de la chose qui m’appelle

comme elle a dû autrefois les appeler –

cette tentation de sauter dans le vide

et de tomber en apesanteur, loin du monde.

Hélène Cardona is the author of seven books, more recently the award-winning Life in Suspension and the translations Birnam Wood (José Manuel Cardona), Beyond Elsewhere (Gabriel Arnou-Laujeac), winner of a Hemingway Grant, Ce que nous portons (Dorianne Laux), and Walt Whitman’s Civil War Writings for WhitmanWeb.

She wrote her thesis on Henry James for her Masters in American Literature from the Sorbonne, taught at Hamilton College and LMU, and worked as an interpreter for the Canadian Embassy in Paris. She received fellowships from the Goethe-Institut and the Universidad Internacional de Andalucía.

Her work has been translated into 16 languages. A Romanian translation of Dreaming My Animal Selves was published by Junimea Editions in 2016. She also translated Rimbaud, Baudelaire, René Depestre, Ernest Pépin, Aloysius Bertrand, Maram Al-Masri, Eric Sarner, Jean-Claude Renard, Nicolas Grenier, Christiane Singer, John Ashbery, John FitzGerald and Maggie Smith.