Isla McKetta's Reviews > Poésies

Poésies by Paul Verlaine
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Apr 26, 2012

it was amazing
Read from January 29 to April 26, 2012

Though neither my French nor my understanding of poetry are good enough to honestly rate Verlaine’s Poésies, this book, the rhythm of Verlaine's stanzas and lines, is fantastic and he has created some truly beautiful images. I have a decent enough comprehension of French that I was able to read the book aloud to myself and to capture Verlaine’s incredible cadences. I used his rhyme scheme to learn to pronounce some words I hadn’t encountered before.

I’m afraid of poetry. I don’t know the structures and the rules and I’m always certain it’s supposed to mean something that I’m missing. But reading poetry in French was freeing. Once I relaxed into the idea that I was not going to understand every word (I refuse to take a dictionary to bed), I was able to also relax into the idea that I would not understand every nuance and reference in the poems. There would be no essay at the end about the Panzer-man signifies.

What was most interesting for me is how carefully reading in French made me pay attention to language. Sometimes I made up my own interpretations based on cognates. “Quand le soleil…dorait la vie” does mean “When the sun…gilded life,” but it also made me think of the verb dormir (to sleep) and so I added layers of meaning to the sentence for myself. This made me think harder about the words I am using and their etymologies and homonyms and how all of that enriches the words and the sentences they inhabit.

Read the rest of this review on my website.
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01/29/2012 page 47
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