Trafika Europe Corner II.2 by Andrew Singer

As part of our current focus on Swiss literature, we’re pleased to bring you three poems by Swiss-French poet Pierre Voélin (born in Courgenay, Switzerland, 1949 – photo by Mario Camelo). Translator John Taylor considers this poet as “one of the

most important figures in contemporary Swiss francophone poetry” – yet virtually unknown in English. He has just translated a superb volume of the poet’s work, To Each Unfolding Leaf: Selected Poems (1976-2015), just out by Bitter Oleander Press. In his introduction to this volume, Taylor quotes David Collin’s assessment, that Voélin’s oeuvre “is at once exacting and humble, musical and grave, joyous and highly crafted. His poetry is like a response or a prelude to encounter, gesture, and listening. It questions the weight of words, the stakes of poetic language, the memory of twentieth-century persecutions, shame, and survival.”

For a terrific wider selection of new Swiss literature, check out our special Swiss issue, free online:

Trafika Europe 11 – Swiss Delights

It’s packed with contemporary Swiss writing, showing the variety of native and non-native German, as well as French, Italian, Romansch, and Yenish writers. To supplement this during our Swiss focus, we’ve got a great essay, animated literary video, audio interviews and so much more, right here.

And by the way, we’ll be featuring a larger selection of poems from Pierre Voélin in the next issue of our Trafika Europe quarterly journal… stay tuned!

For now, here are three poems by Pierre Voélin, translated by John Taylor.

Light—it has its whips—heron squawks
falling and staining the day

and no one recognizes 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 Andrew Singer

Trafika Europe – some of the best new literature from Europe

Read previous posts in The Trafika Europe Corner series:

Trafika Europe Corner II.1 by Andrew Singer

Category: Trafika Europe Corner


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