Jacques Darras








he is sitting
he is sitting with knees bent
he sees the world
he sees white clover flowers
he sees a red-tiled roof
he sees a patch of grey sky
he does not see the world
he is the world
he could move
he could stand up
he could leave his table
he would go to the kitchen
amid metallic knives
amid pointed forks
amid boiling saucepans
he would carve himself a slice of world
he would bite into with all his teeth
here he sees the world with his fingers
he adds up the world on a key-board
he writes a musical score
the title of the score is the world
it is a piece in G minor
in sky major in tiles sharp
in white clover
in folded knees
the keys of the key-board are black
keep off the keys please
the poem is sitting
the poem is writing itself
please do not speak to the poem
do not disturb
no that is not English
the poem is written in French
the key-board comes from Germany
made in Germany
it is an Adler type of type-writer
though the poem is French
that can be seen
from the way the poem is sitting
the poem is not sitting on the world
the poem is sitting in his arm-chair
one sees the arm-chair
one sees a piece of the world
one also sees the arm-chair
one sees the arm-chair above all
it is a Picard « arm-chair »
it is a « cadot »
it is a traditional arm-chair of woven straw
it is a peasant’s arm-chair
there are no peasants left
the few that are left had rather have formica
the statistics are beyond doubt
to-day’s peasants had rather have formica
statistics are not poems
poems are fake statistics
statistics are a waiting-room
statistics wait to be called
if noone ever called them statistics would never move
statistics need a doctor
watch out the poem is about to stand
statistics are being taken care of
watch out the poem is up on his feet
please get out of his way
the poem has gone out
the poem has left his chair empty
sitting where he was one sees what he saw
one sees white clover flowers
one sees a red-tiled roof
one sees a patch of grey sky`
one sees the world
suddently one sees the poem go by
one sees him from where he sat
from the seat he sat on
he does not see us
he does not see we are sitting where he sat
he does not see we see him
the poem is outside
the poem is outside the window-pane
we cannot tell what he sees
we shall know when he is back
poems do come back
poems never go away
one has never seen a poem go away for good
for ever
that would create a vacancy
poems are homely
poems are wildly domestic
they cannot stand still
they cannot stop moving
they cannot stop spinning around
watch out the poem is about to enter
enter the poem
he looks like a poem who is refreshed
he looks inspired
he bends his knees
he straightens up in the arm-chair
the straw creaks
he puts his fingers on the key-board
music mounts from the keys
it is pure delight
there is no beauty to touch the music of the keys


(Traduction Michael Standen & Jacques Darras)




Do you know of many wines of many drinks that one grasps by the name ?
By the glass ?
By the stem of the glass ?
By the flute ?
That one lifts aloft whilst elevating the voice ?
Champagne !
Champagne !
Would it be anything like the same with beer ?
Beer !
With Beaujolais ?
Beaujolais !
Bordeaux ?
Bordeaux !
No —not unless dead drunk on fourty glasses
The fourtieth « ballon d’Alsace »
It must have been such a hard climb !
Champagne !
Champagne !
The crowning of exclamation !
The King’s bubble the Papal bull !
The coronation of carbon dioxyde !
Is it really ?
Of course it is !
Look at CO2 like gangs of angels climbing up their ladders !
Like sailors racing to reach the maintop
Champagne : I am sailing off into Time into chalk !
A spot more triassic ?

How do you like my cretaceous ?

Don’t pay attention to the belemnite in your glass !

Did you say a reptile was swimming in your champagne ?

I’ll tell my winologist

He must have mixed up eras !

Champagne dates back to the mesozoïc, didn’t you know ?

About sixty to two hundred million years !

No time at all !

Did you say your glass tasted of gymnosperm ?

Draw harder on your straw !

Millesimated ?

You can’t be serious !

Millionesimated !

Millionicentimisated !

Jeroboam plus Methusalem plus Salmanazzar plus Balthazar

plus Nebuchadnezzar

Bibulate !

Biblonnate !

Biblionnate !

Try as you may you will still get short of it !

Your bottles are not strong enough !

Two hundred million years your glass will burst !

Liquid prehistory is highly explosive !

Aÿ Aÿ !

Ayctually look at the number of widows !

Veuve Cliquot Veuve Pommery Veuve Perrier Veuve Devaux !

The right Dames for the wrong Chemin des Dames !

Too quickly exploded their husbands !

Too close to the gasses in their glasses !

They should have had their masks on !

Haven’t you seen the fields of crosses across the hills of the Marne ?

Whole armies of drinkers and tasters brought to the treat in taxis from

Paris ?

Paf !

Boum !

What fun we are having !

French and Germans being fêted directly from the vinyards from the veinyards !

Immediate broaching of barrels of blood for transfusion !

From glass to gas to gauze directly !

All that because of having forgotten how long it had taken to raise

and cultivate those little trees with their red leaves in the fall.

Those bunches of black or white Pinot.

Tanned over and over and oven and oven for a hundred million years !

At last we are coming down to the 18th century :

Mozart, Bach, Voltaire, Diderot etc… !

My light ones !

My airy ones !

Champagne !

Aren’t you ruining yourself Mr. Ruinart ?

Levis levis I raise my glass to the sun my sunny glass !

I rise in the sky with the irrepressible respiration of ages !

A fresh monastic amonite !

For drinking light is a need !

Is a creed !

Mouth and eyes, let us love conversion !

Hats off !

Hats off, champagne !

We will take our hats off !

We will uncrown ourselves !

Royally in Reims !

Every time we will carry to our lips the widowhood the poppyhood of

the temporarily temporal coronation of carbon dioxyde that chalk


Let us choke let us joke on chalk !

God save the chalk !


(From « Tout à coup je ne suis plus seul. Roman chanté compté » Gallimard, Paris, 2006)

translated by Jacques Darras with help from Michael Standen



there are more chairs in vichy
there are more chairs in vichy than lives to fold
lives fold easily
lives fold compliantly
to fold up a life one should begin
to fold up a life the way one folds a non folding chair one should begin
to fold up a life the way one folds a non folding chair one should begin by bending one’s will
no sorcery there
no sourcery in white vichy
no sourcery in white vichy wills bend easily
knees will not
knees are the ones that will not bend the way chairs do
the chairs will do nothing to help knees bend
the chairs are unbending
the chairs are white chairs
they are white vichy chairs
they are as white as tablets
they are white chairs in the arching shade of chestnut-trees
the white chairs wait
the white vichy chairs wait for the leaves
the white vichy chairs wait for the chestnut leaves to fall of their own will
the white vichy chairs wait for autumn to come of its own will like a grown up
the white vichy chairs wait for autumn to come and sit all alone in the chestnuts’ shade
autumn sits down noiselessly
autumn sits on the white chairs noiselessly
red autumn is sitting
red autumn watches the leaves fall noiselessly by the side of red autumn that watches them fall
sometimes a red leaf falls on red autumn’s head
red autumn pays no attention
red autumn pretends not to pay attention
the leaf is red
the red leaf can’t be seen on red autumn’s head
knees are what one sees
unbending knees are what one sees
there is no autumn for knees
if there was an autumn for knees knees could not help falling
you would see knees falling
so many knees would be falling you wouldn’t see them fall
you would not say knees are falling
you would call it the fall
there is no fall for knees
it is winter for them overnight
winter at once
when knees stop bending it is winter at once`
which is why the vichy chairs are all white
which is why noone ever sits on the white chairs in the town of vichy
which is why winter is the season of the white chairs in the town of vichy
with a few red chestnut leaves here and there
with a few red chestnut leaves here and there to show that autumn takes time to sit down
still takes time to sit down
still takes time to sit down on the white chairs of vichy in autumn
because it is autumn
because if it were not autumn
it would be winter straightaway
there would be no leaves left to be seen
there would be only knees to be seen
you would only see knees that do not bend
and chairs that do not fold are a better sight than knees that do
wills are stiff in winter
chairs are outside
lives are inside
lives are in somewhere
where they need no chairs
where they need no prop
sans back
sans fall
sans knees
sans will
sans laugh
sans folding




the library rustles
the library rustles with the rustling of pages
a few books open
dictionaries open at the verb to open
in the reflexive form
in the pronominal form
the door of the library creaks
young girls come in
women come in
babies come in bawling
the moment a child appears the edifice of books collapses
books shrink
the silence chagreens
the barbarian roams in the runes
some books speak out loud
if truth was loud libraries would be noisy
children would stop their ears on entering
truth would stop coming out of the mouths of children
children entering would stand mouths agape
silence can be bought with a card
leave your voice at the entrance
if you cannot find any room for your voice
you must not let your throat tighten
one learns to keep silent
I have learnt to keep silent
you have learnt
she has not
at least she says nothing
she is restless
she is not getting on with her reading
her body prevents her eyes from going forward
her body stands in front of her
she cannot see it though it stands in front of her
she can only see him
the man sitting in front
the man sitting in front of her is her body
I am a book she says
I am a living book
I have leaves
I can walk
I am a wood that walks
I have shouts within me
I hold the whole universe within my leaves
I open
I open non reflexively
I wait to be opened
put thy hands
jacques from amiens
wherever all over
where it suits you
the library draws aside
the earth hangs in the sky
the earth does not revolve
the earth no longer revolves
jacques d’amiens is a heretic
jacques d’amiens claims that the earth never revolved
but woman does
that there is no writing but of woman’s body
that there is no writing but what love gives
the love a woman’s body gives
thy friend also must have her say
do hasten both towards the end
jacques d’amiens leaves the library
the shelves of the city sing
men go by slice-wise
women cross the street marker-wise
children keep silent
the well of life opens up before jacques














Poète, essayiste et traducteur français, Jacques Darras est né en Picardie maritime dans les régions du Marquenterre et du Ponthieu (Bernay-en-Ponthieu). Fils d’un couple d’instituteurs il fréquente le Lycée d’Abbeville puis est élève d’hypokhâgne et khâgne au lycée Henry IV à Paris. Il est admis à l’ENS rue d’Ulm en 1960, hésite sur quelle voie suivre, lettres classiques ou philosophie, s’expatrie à Edinburgh en Écosse où il est lecteur et finalement réussit l’agrégation d’anglais en 1966. Nommé au Lycée Grandmont de Tours au sortir du service militaire (École Militaire) il devient assistant à la toute nouvelle Université de Picardie où il fera toute sa carrière jusqu’en 2005. Professeur en 1978 avec une thèse sur « Joseph Conrad et les signes de l’Empire », doyen de Faculté de 1984 à 1999, il crée plusieurs masters et départements de langue dont l’hébreu, l’arabe, le chinois, le néerlandais, le polonais etc…Parallèlement il s’engage dans la vie locale et régionale en lançant une revue littéraire in’hui (près de 70 numéros aujourd’hui) relayée par la Maison de la Culture d’Amiens en 1985 puis éditée à Bruxelles (le Cri) à partir de 1993. Il y publie la poésie étrangère sous forme d’anthologies (Allemagne, Russie, Etats-Unis, Espagne) et la poésie nationale accompagnée d’une réflexion prosodique (le sonnet, le vers libre, l’épopée etc…).

Il se lance entre-temps dans une aventure poétique prenant rythme et réflexion dans un cours d’eau des côtes de la Manche, la Maye, qui se jette dans la Baie de Somme. Il publie le volume inaugural La Maye I en 1988 aux éditions in’hui/3 cailloux (qu’il a fondées à la MCA d’Amiens). Puis La Maye II ou Petit affluent de la Maye en 1993 aux éditions Le Cri à Bruxelles. Il a ajouté depuis cinq autres volumes dont La Maye III ou L’embouchure de la Maye dans les vagues de la manche (le Cri, Bruxelles, 2001) La Maye IV. Van Eyck et les rivières (Le Cri, 1996) La Maye V. Vous n’avez pas le vertige (L’Arbalète/ Gallimard 2004) La Maye VI. Tout à coup je ne suis plus seul (L’Arbalète/Gallimard 2006). La Maye VII. La Maye réfléchit (Le Cri, 2009). Tout en composant le huitème et ultime volume Le Chœur maritime de la Maye, il procède au remaniement des volumes précédents. Il compose également un volume de sonnets Petite Somme sonnante (Mihaly, 1999). Parallèlement à la poésie il publie plusieurs essais dont les trois plus récents Nous sommes tous des romantiques allemands. De Dante à Whitman en passant par Iena (Calmann-Lévy, 2002) Nous ne sommes pas faits pour la mort (Stock 2006) Les îles gardent l’horizon (Hermann 2008)

À Paris en 1998 il fonde avec André Parinaud le mensuel de poésie « Aujourd’hui poème ». Il inaugure un cycle de lectures avec le comédien Jacques Bonnaffé. Il lit dans de nombreux festivals à l’étranger (Etats-Unis, Mexique, Italie, Espagne, Syrie, Tunisie, Russie, Allemagne, Belgique, Pays-Bas, République tchèque, Portugal, Japon, Chine etc…). Il fonde en 2008 par transformation d’in’hui la revue « Inuits dans la Jungle » avec Jean Portante (éditions Phi) et Jean-Yves Reuzeau (Le Castor Astral). Il est invité en 1989 par la BBC, premier non Anglais à prononcer les Reith Lectures, pour célébrer le bicentenaire de la Révolution française (5 conférences mondialement diffusées). Il reçoit le prix Apollinaire (2004) et le prix de l’Académie française pour son œuvre (2006). Il est l’un des administrateurs du CNL, de la Maison de la Poésie de Paris (depuis 1990). Il préside le jury du Prix Ganzo de poésie. Il préside le festival Marathon des Mots de Bruxelles depuis 2009. Il a organisé dix rencontres européennes de poésie à la Maison de la Poésie de Paris en 2009. Il vient de créer le festival de Poésie d’Achères (2010).

Européen convaincu, Jacques Darras, essaie d’engager la poésie française sur la voie d’une écoute plus attentive aux autres traditions. Il travaille obstinément aux frontières (nordiques) de notre sensibilité nationale avec la volonté souvent mal comprise de rendre cette dernière plus extensiblement inclusive et surtout plus ouverte. Il se considère comme un démocrate « whitmanien » d’Europe. En tant que tel il reconnaît être en contradiction ouverte avec le grand mouvement symboliste et surréaliste (freudio-lacanien) qui conduit encore la poésie française de nos jours. Son admiration va directement à Apollinaire, Cendrars et Claudel, dont la tradition d’ouverture au monde s’est inexplicablement interrompue.

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