cover image MA LANGUE EST POETIQUE: Selected Work


Christophe Tarkos, . . Roof, $12 (90pp) ISBN 978-0-937804-88-9

Tarkos was born in Marseilles in 1964 and published his first book of poetry, Morceaux Choisis, in 1995; he has published over 25 (sic) books (some of them rather huge) since then, all while maintaining a hectic touring schedule of performances all over Europe and remaining very active as a publisher and collaborator with many French artists, writers and composers. This slender selection attempts to represent a little bit of each of Tarkos's modes so far, most of which translate incredibly well into the American idiom. Unlike so much post–Tel Quel French writing, the work here is neither spare nor precious, but rather has an abundance and a surefire comedic bent, coupled with a hallucinatory sense of history and the myriad false plays of language, placing Tarkos somewhere between Rimbaud, Beckett and Stein. "Hurt: a libretto," for example, is a little minimalist comedy in which "voice 2" tries to talk "voice 2" (which repeatedly expresses "ouch, I hurt") into an out-of-body experience to divorce his- or herself from the pain. If there is an overriding concern in the nine pieces here, it is with the way language can be shaped and stretched, placed in all sorts of containers, duplicated, erased and made to reorient the mind; Tarkos calls this concept "worddoh," as if language were as sweet and malleable as uncooked Pillsbury rolls. Co-edited by American poet-translators Stacy Doris (Paramour) and Chet Wiener (who provides an excellent introduction), the book counts among its other translators Fiona Templeton, Norma Cole, Montreal Anglophone poet Erin Moure and Geneva Chao, who translated the interview with Tarkos included as an appendix. This is a delightful yet significant collection that is, at 96 pages, just the tip of the iceberg; with any luck, it will signal the presence of a new French voice in America. (Sept.)