#RivetingReviews: Anna Blasiak reviews WHATEVER THE NAME by Pierre Lepori

There is something delicate and extremely fragile about Pierre Lepori’s poetry and about the character(s) he creates. The voice he writes in is hushed – you really need to be free of any distractions to tune into it, to adjust to the seemingly plain language and pace, to the language stripped of anything surplus. And only when you do that, do you start experiencing its richness. Occasionally you can taste a small lyrical morsel popping on your tongue (‘Rotting meat of refusal’ or ‘Roots of hatred do not breed children’). Together, the quiet images created by Lepori strengthen each other, to the point at which their power can become almost scalding, transformative, but also dreamy.

Henceforth what was known as rain,

was now salt,

the smoke rising from the sleepy village,

known as chimney-smoke,

was in fact the cause of my despair.

White bread,

clothes carefully tucked away in the

closets

for the summer months, the mothballs

thrown in the sand.

Everything was given to us

once and for all.

But the cry that arose from the stomach

would never give birth to speech.

and the imagined: nymphs

What I admire about this book is the fact that the painful and traumatic issues discussed are presented without the usual drama (‘There are wounds with no name’), in a way that almost suggests, without justifying them, of course, that they are a regular part of the fabric of life. There is something archetypal about these poems, something grounding, perhaps even something that can help deal with such issues. Which doesn’t mean that the suffering behind those incidents is any less apparent, or that the tragedy is less sizeable. It’s just that it is painted with a more subdued, almost pastel-like technique instead of screaming expressionist colours. It’s almost as if Lepori focuses on the stretches of silence between words being said and things being done, directing our attention to the negative, the reverse of events, as if he believes in silence: ‘Silence is your heart of wind and your childhood home’. And somehow he allows the private pain to distil over time into non-personal history, into pure archetypes.

That silence of

the countryside asleep in the sun,

no longer any omission or guilt

for not having spoken: instead there

will be

a fire in which nothing burns, crying for

rest.

Pierre Lepori had been writing for years before he decided he was ready to publish, before he felt ready to call himself a poet. And that comes across very strongly in this, his first volume. The reader can almost sense all the work that went into simmering those poems down to their complete and absolute essence. As he says in the note closing the book, his ‘goal – certainly too ambitious – had been to start medicating the language. This is the reason for certain purely descriptive inserts (though not devoid of affection), in a book born as a path towards the re-appropriation of language.’

There is no doubt that he successfully achieves his goal.

Reviewed by Anna Blasiak

WHATEVER THE NAME

Written by Pierre Lepori

Translated by Peter Valente

Published by Spuyten Duyvil (2017)


Anna Blasiak, photo by Lisa Kalloo

Anna Blasiak is an art historian, poet and translator. She runs the European Literature Network with Rosie Goldsmith. She has translated over 40 books from English into Polish and, as Anna Hyde, Polish into English. She has worked in museums and a radio station and written on art, film and theatre. annablasiak.com.

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Photo of Pierre Lepori by Yvonne Böhler

Category: December 2018 - The Swiss RiveterReviews

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