French Book Week: POEMS by Valérie Rouzeau, translated by Susan Wicks


The crows go cross cross cross across my old furrowed field

My old delightful skies a crime for them to nail their futureless wishes there

It rises above the blackest cloud you ever believed

The town is cold the heart is bare

The fir-tree shines they decorate it as befits a branch that’s dead

And on the satellite dish what parable of bird.

My muddy paths my sunken paths my little shoe sinks in

And lasts until the tarmac where I’ve got two feet again

Something is stumbling limping running on empty

No happy element no snow no everlasting father

Snow and after that the mud the early spring the almost blue

Perhaps the warbler-footprint of delight.

The road from cradle to grave presents a few mean stones

Sharp stones in thousands

That remember all our little shoes

From pram to tumulus from dainty baby-wrap to cumulus

Sheep’s-wool to marble to the last evaporated breath

We don’t know what it is.


Les corbeaux font croix croix croix croix par-dessus tous mes vieux sillons

Tous mes vieux cieux délit si eux ils clouent des vœux sans avenir

Ça monte au-dessus du nuage le plus noir qu’on a jamais cru

La ville est froide et le cœur nu

Le sapin brille on l’enguirlande comme il faut une branche morte

Sur la parabole quel oiseau

Mes chemins boueux chemins profonds j’y enfonce un petit soulier

Et il dure jusqu’au macadam où j’ai maintenant les deux pieds

Quelque chose cloche ou boite à vide

Manque la neige l’élément heureux sans paternel sempiternel

La neige et puis ensuite le boueux l’avant printemps le presque bleu

L’empreinte fauvette de joie peut-être

La route du berceau à la tombe offre quelques méchants cailloux

Des blessants cailloux par milliers

Qui n’oublient nos petits souliers

De la poussette au tumulus du joli lange au cumulus

De la laine du mouton au marbre au dernier souffle évaporé

Nous ne savons pas ce que c’est.

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for Fabienne

By the time we finished talking it has snowed

We’d laughed and sighed like a pair of sisters

Can you see this caribou from your window it’s a cloud

A moose an ermine little moving fox

It changes every moment changes to sky-blue sky

If the night has stars in it it’s a promise of blue

Have you checked out the chimney-stacks the great she-bears 

We ought to see oceans more

We shouldn’t need a second glance to make out a giraffe

All white white white white where you are as well?

A squid a cuttlefish an octopus might add a splash of ink

All white white white without red rabbit eyes

We mustn’t make each other late time’s getting on I’d better go

There are some in dotty frocks and some in geometric shapes

And oh I almost forgot

Old things float up and new ones too

A slotted spoon a convalescence or a precious stone

Jewel of sleeping water there was a cat called that

It was

Drowned jewel

Clouds don’t miaow though jewellery can trickle down

When we stopped our oneversation we came down as snow.

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pour Fabienne

Quand nous cessâmes de parler il a neigé

Nous avions ri et soupiré comme deux sœurs

Vois-tu ce caribou par ta fenêtre c’est un nuage

Un élan une hermine un petit renard mouvant

Change tout le temps change en ciel ciel

Si la nuit s’étoile elle promet du bleu

As-tu vérifié ourses et cheminées

On devrait voir plus souvent un océan

On devrait du premier coup reconnaître une girafe

Blanc blanc blanc blanc chez toi aussi?

Une pieuvre un poulpe un octopousse encreraient bien

Blanc blanc blanc blanc et sans les yeux rouges du lapin

Ne nous mettons pas en retard l’heure tourne allons

Il y en a à robes à pois d’autres à trapèzes

J’allais oublier

Des choses anciennes flottent à la surface et des nouvelles aussi

Une écumoire une convalescence un joyau

Bijou d’eau dormante c’était le nom d’un chat

Ce fut


Les nuages ne miaulent pas les bijoux coulent par contre…

Quand nous a cessé de parler il neigeâmes.


What time is it I’m happy there’s a tree

The war atomic power happy there’s a tree

That thousand billionth bird wiped out a tree

The promise of a forest of forgetting of I’m off

What time of evening like what time of morning

Here’s a tree straight up and filling both my eyes

The page the landscape or the window you could say

A human being dying every second there’s a tree

Where the girl in the swing is swinging herself to air

La joie in what times countries if you like de vivre

There is a tree, though, just here right outside

From rise to set its forking lines connect

The moon and sun the sun and moon

A tree that travels perfectly a tree.


Il est quelle heure je suis heureuse il y a un arbre

La guerre le nucléaire heureuse il y a un arbre

Ce mille milliardième oiseau éteint un arbre

Une promesse de forêt d’oubli de je m’en vais

Quelle heure du soir comme du matin

Un arbre dressé franc qui remplit mes deux yeux

La page le paysage la fenêtre aussi bien

Un humain par seconde meurt il y a un arbre

Où la fille à l’escarpolette en l’air s’envoie

La joie en quels temps pays de vivre quoi

Il y a un arbre n’empêche pile juste ici

Levant couchant il tient en embranchement

La lune et le soleil le soleil et la lune

Un arbre un arbre voyageur impeccable.

By Valérie Rouzeau

Translated by Susan Wicks

Poems from Talking Vrouz by Valérie Rouzeau, translated by Susan Wicks, published by Arc Publications (2013)

Thank you to Arc Publications for allowing us to publish these extracts.

Valérie Rouzeau was born in 1967 in Burgundy, France and now lives in a small town near Paris, Saint-Ouen, well-known for its flea-market. She has published a dozen collections of poems, including Pas revoir (l’Idée Bleue, 1999), Va où (Le Temps qu’il Fait, 2002) and more recently Apothicaria (Wigwam, 2007) and Mange-Matin (l’Idée Bleue, 2008). She has also published volumes translated from Sylvia Plath, William Carlos Williams, Ted Hughes and the photographer Duane Michals. She is the editor of a little review of poetry for children (from 5 to 117 years old) called dans la lune and lives mainly by her pen through public readings, poetry workshops in schools, radio broadcasts and translation.

Valérie was selected to represent France in the 2012 Cultural Olympiad Poetry Parnassus in London.

Susan Wicks, poet and novelist, was born in Kent, England, in 1947. She read French at the universities of Hull and Sussex, and wrote a D. Phil. thesis on André Gide. She has lived and worked in France, Ireland and America and has taught at the University of Dijon, University College Dublin and the University of Kent. She is the author of five collections of poetry including Singing Underwater (1992), which won the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival Prize, and The Clever Daughter (1996), which was short-listed for both the T. S. Eliot and Forward Prizes, and she was included in the Poetry Society’s ‘New Generation Poets’ promotion in 1994. A short memoir, Driving My Father, was published in 1995. She is also the author of two novels, The Key (1997), the story of a middle-aged woman haunted by the memory of a former lover, and Little Thing (1998), an experimental novel about a young Englishwoman living and teaching in France. Her most recent book of poems, De-iced, came out from Bloodaxe in 2007, and a book of short stories, Roll Up for the Arabian Derby, from Bluechrome in 2008.

Photo of Valérie Rouzeau by Tony Ward

Category: TranslationsFrench Book Week


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