The Nature of Things

The Nature of Things

by Francis Ponge

Translated from the French by Lee Fahnestock.

"My immediate reaction to Lee Fahnenstock's translation was: this must certainly be 'Ponge's voice in English'...She gives us his tones, rhythms, humor...and maneuvers his word play with respect and unostentatious discretion"--Barbara Wright, translator of Queneau, Pinget, Sarraute.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Poetry
  • Rating: 3.88
  • Pages: 52
  • Publish Date: September 1st 1995 by Red Dust
  • Isbn10: 0873760808
  • Isbn13: 9780873760805

What People Think about "The Nature of Things"

Never mind: in the role of lamplighter, it checks the oil supply in each one, places on the top of the flower the atrophied cocoon it carries, and so avenges it's long, amorphous humiliation as a caterpillar at the stem's foot.

The Voice of Things contains a number of texts by Francis Ponge, including the complete text of Taking the Side of Things ; selections from Methods , Pieces , Lyres , and The Prairie ; and a previously unpublished poem entitled "This Is Why I Have Lived"... And when I say convinced, I mean if not of some truth, then at least of the fragility of my own opinion. What lies closer gives me no more pleasure than a painting, What lies still closer, no more than sculpture or architecture, As to the reality of things right up to my knees, like food, a feeling of real indigestion. The smallest statuette by Giacometti is formal proof of this: for a generation - ours - to display its stamens so gloriously, it must have reached the end of its flowering. Giacometti was born in 1901 in the mountain village of Stampa (Switzerland), which is to say in the rugged heart of Europe, but oriented more toward Italy. Since this has more to do with a way of being Than with a platter set before our eyes, The word is more fitting than paint Which would not do at all. Taking a tube of green and spreading it on the page Does not make a prairie. Let us then prepare the page on which today may be born A verdant verity. Sometimes then - we might also say in some places - Sometimes, our nature - I mean by that Nature on our planet And what we are each day on awaking - Sometimes, our nature has prepared us (for) a prairie. Why then, seen from here, this limited fragment of space, Stretched between four rocks or four hawthorn hedges, Barely larger than a handkerchief, Moraine of the forests, downpour of adverse signs, This prairie, gentle surface, halo of springs and of the original storm sweet sequel In unanimous anonymous call or reply to the rain, Why does it suddenly seem more precious to us Than the finest of Persian rugs? Fragile but not frangible, The soil at times reconquers the surface, Marked by the little hooves of the foal that galloped there, Trampled by the cattle that pushed slowly toward the watering place... Here the prayer wheel is already turning, Yet without the slightest idea of prostration, For that would be contrary to the verticalities of the place. The prairie pré lying there like the ideal past participle Is equally rever(d)end as our prefix of prefixes, Pre-fix within prefix, pre-sent within present.

With few other qualities - blackberries, black as ink - just as this poem was made." - Blackberries * * * On occasion night revives an unusual plant whose glow rearranging furnished rooms into masses of shadow. - The Pleasures of the Door * * * Fire has a system: first all the flames move in one direction... - Fire * * * When the sugar prepared in the stem rises to the bottom of the flower, like a badly washed cup - a great event takes place on the ground where butterflies suddenly take off. Never mind: in the role of lamplighter, it checks the oil supply in each one, places on top of the flower the atrophied cocoon it carries, and so avenge its long, amorphous humiliation as a caterpillar at the stem's toot. - The Butterfly * * * Like his G, the gymnast wears a goatee and moustache almost reached by the heavy lock on his low forehead. To wind up, he sometimes drops from the rafters like a caterpillar, but bounces back on his feet, and it is then the adulated paragon of human stupidity who salutes you.

instead of all that, for some unknown reason I wish that man carved out a sort of niche or shell to his own measure, an object very different from the mollusk form yet similarly proportioned (native African huts are quite satisfying in that respect); I wish that man applied himself through the ages to creating a shelter not much larger than his body, one involving all his imagination and reasoning; that he put his genius to work on appropriate scale rather than disproportion-- or at the very least that his genius recognized the contours of the body that sustains it. And I do not even admire those who, like the Pharaohs, have monuments to a single man erected by a multitude. In that light I particularly admire certain restrained writers or composers: Bach, Rameau, Malherbe, Horace, Mallarmé-- above all the writers, because their monument is made from the true secretion common to the human mollusk, from the thing most closely proportioned and adapted to his body, yet bearing the least conceivable likeness to his form: I mean LANGUAGE.

In barba ai poeti metafisici, di cui, probabilmente, Ponge fu il barbiere, questa raccolta rivolge tutta la propria attenzione alle piccole cose, all'intrinseca mangia della materia disgregante: un'arancia, un mollusco, una porta d'ingresso; le more, una cassetta di legno, quant'altro ancora.

Ponge's poetry (though he would object to be calling a poet: he says something like he is simply expelling poetic magma) is an intellectualization and poeticization of the mundane and quotidian. Perhaps since Ponge is averse to being called a poet, we can call these observations.

I liked this translation a lot (though to be fair, I have not read others).