Montreal Mastermind

The praise or public proclamation poem in the US is not exactly a lost art but one that has been relegated to inaugural sentiment, politic posture, public polemic, and John Philip Sousa huzzahs.  In fact, under tight-ass Anglo constraints, the praise poem is tainted with sinful hubris for any other purpose.  Unlike for the French who will apostrophize everything and anything.  There have been undoubtedly numerous panegyrics to the moment, particularly in the rhetoric of Greek and Roman antiquity, including weddings, graduation ceremonies, retirement banquets, funerals, and, just as deadly, art openings. However, thankfully, not all have been recorded or stood the test of time.  At the beginning of the so-called Modern era we are fortunate to have Apollinaire’s “Poem Read at Andre Salmon’s Wedding” which set the bar for the public poem of its day. We are also privileged, at the beginning of the 21st century, to have two beautifully realized examples by the French Canadian poet and philosopher Robert Hébert.

It should also be noted that, though often overlooked, French Canada is in some ways similar to Catalonia: a unique country and culture within another politically dominant culture and country.  For some of the poets of native attribution, the Acadian past looms large.  Montreal, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in North America, has a vibrant literary scene of which M. Hébert is a regular participant. These poets, writers, philosophers, because of their unique provenance, are Americanos as are all translingual authors of the Americas.  No matter the tongue, the language of poetry is universal. In Hébert’s nomination of a cohort of fellow artists as the “Ubiquiti” we should appreciate that the initial letter’s resonance echoes the 3 U’s of the Americas: Unis, United, Unidos.

Of “Prologue aux nouvelles clameurs (Prologue to the latest hue and cry)”, Robert Hébert notes: “On September 6 and 7, 2013, an amble through the theater and video installation “Berlin Calling” created by Daniel Brière and Évelyne de la Chenelière was held at the Goethe Institut in Montreal,.  Catherine de Léan and Marc Fortier piano with texts by Daniel, Évelyne and myself. Here is the Prologue which was vividly recited by Catherine de Léan”.   The “Prologue to the latest hue and cry” can be read in the original French at Onoups

Of the poem titled “Nelligan’s Fate after Finnegan’s Wake and vice-versa”, the text is in addition to the monologues written for the walk-through event “Berlin Calling” created by Daniel Brière and Évelyne de la Chenelière at the Goethe-Institut. Written on the occasion of an event entitled “Head in the clouds” on the performativity of living together. Unread text, was published here (in the original French) on Bloomsday day, 110 years after that day in Dublin with Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus.

The poems were translated by Pat Nolan who has previously translated M. Hébert’s minimalist work Histoire naturelles (Blue Pig, 1973) included as part of the text to Lost And Found In Translation which was also posted in this blog. The translator notes that the lines in italics in the body of the poems, and title of one, with the exception of epigraphs and dedications, remain in their original English, German, or Latin.

—Submitted to the membership
by the Parole Officer

Prologue to the latest hue and cry 

“Brother Jacques, brother Jacques, are you sleeping?”

Nursery rhyme,
theme of the funeral march by Gus Mahler,
Symphony No. 1, third movement.

In the beginning, the earth was brou and haha
The spirit of Pterodactylus hovered over the darkness
of the primitive soup
and the waters of unconsciousness.
Pterodactylus created man in his image,
and lent him the use of the word. . .
Man began to speak, to project gobs of sounds,
To address the heavens.
Greatly puzzled by this breath that
Passed through his own mouth.

Over days and nights, stardust created
stone, wood, delicacies,
papyrus, animal skins.
So many supports-surfaces.
And the hand of man finally traced the letters of the alphabet.
Astounding birth of Homo scribens.

We, Ubiquiti of the Millennium,
ubiquitous without borders
we like the first letter A.
Ah! pleasures, joys and sorrow everywhere,
admiration. . .regret. . .impatience. . .surprise. . .
ah! perplexity,
Ha! Ha! Look out. Achtung!
A’s echoing affects the blood makes it curdle.
The alphabetary would summarize the great adventure of man
with all the ups and downs of his journey.

Im Anfang war die Tat.
In the beginning was the deed.
No more gloomy theories, paper,
library, dog growls,
Faust uncovers the plot but has to make a pact
with that psycho Mephisto.

In the beginning was the language of the Third Reich,
That distorted, perverted the words, euphemized,
that “took care” (betreuen) of the malignant and undesirable
by accompanying them to their destruction. . .
Then one day, rubble,
despite all the jam packed walls,
up pops a Joseph Beuys.
aouou! accompanies coyote
and who? a Nina Hagen punkette.

In the beginning there is nothing of the All To Come.
There’s night at times, sex,
a world war, the deed already done.
Historic madness precedes every birth
and the unborn heed.

At the beginning there are points of departure,
a coastline, the rumor of dreams,
the chances of an adventure in an uncertain world,
the oceanic suspense.
Then the mouth of a river,
Amerika, Amerika! 

In the end the catalog of all memories will remain,
bygone pleas,
hub of actions to come, predictable.
The earth won’t be any less hustle and bustle,
Hustle bustle,
An otherwise primordial soup.

In a universe where stardust would have created
Nothing conscious,
philosophy would not be taught:
an extraordinary sun is necessary,
men and women,
an open wound, an injured humanity
for the philosopher to question
all that happens, alles was der Fall ist.
Ah!. . .but we only question with language, my friends:
Fish bones, the embers of books
caught in the esophagus.

Ladies and gentlemen,
meine Damen und Herren,
enter the labyrinth of the Goethe-Institut.
It’s the clamor,
the offbeat hubbub of the Ubiquiti;
ubiquity is a superior virtue of tourism.
To each the highlight of their evening,
the creation of a few flickers at the windows. . .
it will be the Berlin bunch
or Montreal on the Main.

New images, new enigmas or variations,
A little headway through the throng,
A throng
without identity papers,
fiction’s playground

Translator’s notes:
“supports-surfaces” references the 70’s French art movement.
Joseph Beuys was a German Fluxus, happening, and performance artist as well as a painter, sculptor, medallist, installation artist, graphic artist, art theorist, and pedagogue.
Catharina “Nina” Hagen is a German singer, songwriter, and actress. She is known for her theatrical vocals and rose to prominence during the punk and new wave movements in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The Goethe-Institut is a non-profit German cultural association operational worldwide with 159 institutes, promoting the study of the German language abroad and encouraging international cultural exchange and relations.


Nelligan’s Fate after Finnegan’s Wake and vice-versa
(A wrench in progress/ English key in the works)

To Cecilia Sullivan and Jacob Hébert, auctioneer,
buried at Old Shediac Cemetery, NB

Here comes everybody
Here everyone enters
An inn of infinite mirrors
Bar open to the gullet, no sweat
Hod, cement and edifices facelifted
sleepers won’t sup at the Eucharistic meal of tongues
This is the eerie din of the Ubiquiti
In the wake of “Le Vaisseau d’Or”, the Berlin or Dublin network
Mutatis mutandis, let’s muon each other
Head in the clouds, sky is the limit
Dublin on the 53rd parallel
higher than the crater of Manicouagan, “the eye of Quebec”
sometimes snow and hail
Heinz cans everywhere
but it is never a matter of ketchup, my friends
So let’s finish Finnegan again

For you, Jean on the go, bush pilot
and noble hiker of the Americas
Homo canadensis erectus
For you, Nathalys and Lotte, flowers of the labyrinth
of the charming knacklaut, in love with the little dreamer Léolo
Home cured emigrants
For you, crusty Marco
ophthalmologist and atheist Jew in the land of the blind
Hush! Caution! Echoland!
counter hallucinations with calm
first scan your terrors and prejudices
Hostages and Co, Engineers, Pierre exclaims
guinea pig and engineer
bundler of new sounds
Haunting crevices of Eros, Phanie smiles
May the most intense of fires grab us by the gut
by our hearts and our minds

Finally for you Julien, troubled and honest
student of philosophical truths
who plays dominoes with the clones of Wittgenstein
to the island kingdom of nonsense
Hegel’s churned excrescences
Heidegger in song, besides!
haughty dogmas and beliefs at auction
Hardest crux ever
For sale, every truth bought, sold, traded or outdated
Who will say it better? Who will raise the stakes?
Who will boost the slumping gambols?

New alphabet t-shirts
abcdefghijklm NO PQ rstuvwxyz
Bouvard and Pécuchet copied the archives
Buvard and PQ stumble, fade, transpire
but without q no Queneau, Quebec, quark or queen
History, climate and entertainment
jangled annoying  nightmares
“Ah! How the snow has snowed”
permanent show business spasms
thin titters, da capo
P. and Q., the peach of all piedom, the quest of all quicks
afraid of the lively question
peace by the quantum or self-importance
Have we cherished such expectations?
Peequeens ourselves, the beautiful pickles in the brine
a mari usque ad mare

How comes ever a body
Listen to everyone in the crowd enjoy themselves, yea
TNT from aaah! … right up to zzzz
We Millennial Ubiquiti, Ubiquiti without borders
we love all the letters of the alphabet
highly charged with electronic meanings
Zarathustra dancing to zydeco airs in the bayous
and tralala in the shadow of an urubu
carrying a water moccasin
ZUP and ZEC, a priori priorities heterogeneous comforts or erogenous forests?
The air is full of mosquitoes and blood sucking bugs

I wandered in Dublin last century
to the Trinity College Library
along  the docks of the Liffey, a river dreamed
Heroticisms, catastrophes and eccentricities
To you the bartender who told me about King Heber
From the butts of Heber and Heremon, nolens volens
brood our pansies
overthink our thoughts, crush the black of our hooded violets
to you Louis Wolfson, student of schizoid language
glued to the short-wave of Radio-Canada
photographed with walkman in Montreal
did I pass you by one day?
To each his own Yiddish
To the beautiful Acadian at the Waldman Fish Market
who sang “in the buginning was my upheaval”
to a tune by Tom Waits
Lobsters cooked in roiling waters
and thanks to all the anonymous H. C. Earwicked who worked
with their two hammers, anvils, stirrups 

Happinest childher everwere
Here everyone begets
Living together, mission accomplished
Head in the clouds, looking Dionysian
Habituals conspicuously emerge
To the virtual offspring of David Nelligan and Émilie-Amanda Hudon
the follies of Ducharme aka Roch Plante
mosquito hawk in the shadow of a Nobel Prize
Finnelligans, Funnelliguns, wake up!
Cannon and chimney belched your resonant fire
poof! kites shape shift
“Humungous” cyber ecology
Sphinx assassin? pharynx redeemer
Delicate balance of long distance friends between languages
the empire of tiresomely-assumed equivocation, of Le Nez qui voque
then Phonelligone
with the wind

Translator’s notes:
Le Vaisseau d’Or; a sonnet by Quebec poet Émile Nelligan, composed in 1899, probably after the May 26 meeting of the École littéraire de Montréal, during which Nelligan received a standing ovation after reading “La Romance du vin”. This is Nelligan’s best-known poem.
“the eye of Quebec”;The Manicouagan Crater is one of the oldest known impact craters. It is in the Côte-Nord region of Québec, Canada. 
Bouvard et Pecuchet; an elaborate pun on the title of Flaubert’s unfinished novel.  In the original French “Bouvard et Pécuchet recopiaient les archives/ Buvard et PQ trébuchent, s’effacent, trépassent” that involves the sense of drinking and stumbling inherent on the tonic similarity between Bouvard and Buvard and the French for drinking, “buvard”.  Flaubert’s title is undoubtedly an elaborate tonic pun as well, given attention by Hébert’s “PQ trébuchent”.  PQ stands for Provence of Quebec, its previous postal designation.
Peequeens; a code switching tonic pun for “between” substituting the P and the Q, not referencing the notorious urination porn.  
a mari usque ad mare (from sea to sea) is the Canadian national motto.
Urubu; Portuguese for vulture, also a slang denigration.
ZUP and ZEC; ZUP is the acronym for “Zones urbaines en priorité” in France, kind of second zone suburbs for poor, migrants, awful buildings, etc.  ZEC stands for “Zone d’exploitation controlee”, kind of wildlife parks with camping sites.  
Zeugma; a figure of speech in which a word applies to two others in different senses (e.g., John and his license expired last week ) or to two others of which it semantically suits only one (e.g., with weeping eyes and hearts ). 
Louis Wolfson, born 1931 in New York, is an American author who writes in French. Treated for schizophrenia since childhood, he cannot bear hearing or reading his native language. He invented a process which consists of immediately translating every English sentence into a foreign phrase having the same sound and sense. He lived in New York, then in Montreal after his mother’s death. Since November 1994 he has lived in Puerto Rico where he became a millionaire on 9 April 2003 after winning the jackpot in a lottery game.
H. C. Earwicked; pun on Joyce’s dreamer in Finnegan’s Wake, also recurring theme of the Wake and this poem, HCE.
the virtual offspring of David Nelligan and Émilie-Amanda Hudon; Émile Nelligan was a French Canadian  poet born in Montreal on December 24,1879. He was the first son of David Nelligan, who arrived in Quebec from Dublin, Ireland at the age of 12. His mother was Émilie Amanda Hudon, from Rimouski, Quebec.  Nelligan is considered one of the greatest poets of French Canada. 
Roch Plante; In addition to being a playwright, scriptwriter and writer best known for his famous novel L’Avalée des avalés, Réjean Ducharme creates sculptures under the pseudonym Roch Plante.
Le Nez qui voque; the second novel by Quebec writer and playwright Réjean Ducharme. It was published by Gallimard in 1967.

Robert Hébert is a French Canadian author and experiential philosopher living in Montreal. He is the author of eleven books whose subjects range from philosophic meditations and cogitations, observations on the uniqueness of Quebecois culture and its Acadian past, and poetry.  His most recent book, Monsieur Rhésus, was published by Editions Nota Bene (Montréal, 2019)

Pat Nolan’s translations have appeared in numerous literary magazines including Otoliths, The World, Big Sky, Exquisite Corpse, and Contemporary Literature in Translation as well as in The Random House Book of Twentieth Century Poetry (1982) and Poems for the Millennium, Vol. I (1995).  His translation of Philippe Soupault’s Aquarium was published by Doris Green Editions in 1984 and a further selection of Soupault’s early work was issued from Pygmy Forest Press as Where The Four Winds Blow in 1993.


This entry was posted in Poetry, Poetry Society and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.