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"RENE CHAR : Isle-Sur-Sorgue" [by Geoffrey Young]

Rene CharIt was early July, 1970, and we were at Le Chateau d’Lignane, guests of the Boutié family in Aix-en-Provence. Laura had spent a month with them when she was sixteen. The house had an all but empty long room, not part of the house, really, with a curved ceiling. All it had in it were a few tables and chairs. We worked there during the ten days we stayed with them. I can still hear the sound of my flute echoing in that monastic chamber.

We knew that René Char [pictured left] lived in a town not far from Aix. One day we drove to Isle-Sur-Sorgue, found his house, entered the yard, and parked. I’d been translating his poetry for the past year and wanted to see the landscape around his place--the river, the stones, the low hills, the bridge--and to meet him if possible, even without a letter of introduction.

Quietly, we walked around the yard looking at things, trying to get up the courage to knock on his front door. We noticed a marble slab lying on a patch of grass, with a line from his poetry carved into it.  “L’aigle est au futur.” My god, we thought, it’s his headstone! Did he die? But then we saw other slabs, planted here and there, memorable lines culled from his poems.

Three steps lead up to the front door, the house a dull-white two-story stucco with red trim. When we finally knocked, hoping to meet him, his housekeeper answered. I told her that I’d been translating the poet’s work into English, and hoped to meet him. She said, with kind regret, “Il garde son privé.”

We wondered if he was inside, peeking out of an upstairs window at two young Americans, uninvited, poking around his property with shameless audacity.

Nothing to do but get back in the car and drive away, disappointed, but armed now with the inscription on that stone: “L'AIGLE EST AU FUTUR.” Was it a prophecy? A projection? Symbolic or natural?

If “the eagle is in the future,” what did it mean?

Geoffrey Young has lived in Great Barrington, Massachusetts since 1982. From 1992 til 2018 he presented hundreds of shows of contemporary art at the Geoffrey Young Gallery. His small press, The Figures (1975-2005), published more than 135 books of poetry, art writing, and fiction. Recent chapbooks of his poetry, prose and colored pencil drawings include Thirty-Three (above/ground press, 2017), DATES, ASIDES, and PIVOT. Young has written catalog essays for a baker’s dozen of artists.


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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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