Thursday 24 October 2013

Francis Ponge

In a recent review I compared the photographs of Walker Evans to the writings of the French poet  Frances Ponge. Both artists based their work around the close contemplation of the humble, the quotidian. Ponge perfected a form of prose poem dedicated to such everyday objects as potatoes, oranges and cigarettes. He's not an acquired taste - you 'get' him immediately, in French or in translation.

In 1967 Ponge published Le Savon, a long prose poem about soap. Here's an extract, followed by my attempt at an English version:

Si je m'en frotte les mains, le savon écume, jubile...
Plus il les rend complaisantes, souples,
liantes, ductiles, plus il bave, plus
sa rage devient volumineuse et nacrée...
Pierre magique!
Plus il forme avec l'air et l'eau
des grappes explosives de raisins
L'eau, l'air et le savon
se chevauchent, jouent
à saute-mouton, forment des
combinaisons moins chimiques que
physiques, gymnastiques, acrobatiques...

If I lather my hands, the soap suds, joyously...
The more it smothers them - supple,
slick, ductile - the more it slathers, the more
its wrath gains volume, pearl-like...
A wonder stone!
The more it forms with air and water
explosive clusters, grapes of aromatic froth...
Water, air, soap
blend and play,
leapfrog to form
combinations less chemical than
physical, gymnastic, acrobatic...

French original © The Estate of Francis Ponge

1 comment:

  1. ...are you quite sure he is talking about washing his hands - ?