THREE POEMS by Pierre Voélin, translated by John Taylor

Light – it has its whips – heron squawks

falling and staining the day

and no one recognises his day in it

But may you come to hide in this voice

among the flowering trees – the bare boulders

and the trunks – the tongue of the lichens

the coal in its hideaway

Towards the alpine pasture – higher up – blind

the shot-off capercaillie’s head

a billhook of blood flying veering over the trails

but may you come back – you – your hands

and water for my mouth

You more humble – who used to listen to the word


On this May morning the poem awakes early

among the flowers of the chestnut tree

very early – in the other season

the snow guides it into the mountains

where the wind trims our lips again

where our inspiration returns

and where I also see your shoulders beneath the frost

the crystals barely grazing you

forget that I am this man

that you are this woman

and watch at night Orion the Hunter

kneeling among the other stars


The lilacs – the hazels – the silver baskets

the maple’s winged seeds raining down covering the paths

the imperfect ivy

and fear – the heart laid bare

in the secrecy of the lower branches

Your sisters’ blood – the swan’s whiteness

evening – at prayer

the father’s arms – scratched by the blackberries

There is where the walls rose – and your house

By Pierre Voélin

Translated by John Taylor

Published courtesy of Trafika Europe. For more contemporary Swiss literature in English translation, please see Trafika Europe 11 – Swiss Delights.

Pierre Voélin was born in Courgenay (Canton Jura), Switzerland. His most recent books include the poetry collection L’été sans visage (2010) and the essay collection De l’air volé (2011). Six poems from his sequence Dans une prairie de fauche were translated by John Taylor and published in Modern and Contemporary Swiss Poetry: An Anthology (Dalkey Archive, 2012). In 2016 he won the Priz Louise-Labé.

John Taylor has translated books by Jacques Dupin, Philippe Jaccottet, Pierre-Albert Jourdan, José-Flore Tappy, and Louis Calaferte. His latest personal collection is If Night Is Falling, published by The Bitter Oleander Press in 2012. He is also the author of the three volume essay collection, Paths to Contemporary French Literature and Into the Heart of European Poetry.

Photo of Pierre Voélin © Wikipedia / From the Author’s Archive

Category: The Swiss RiveterTranslationsDecember 2018 - The Swiss RiveterLiterally SwissLS Extracts


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