Cold Water Shielded: Selected Poems

Salah Stetie, Author, Michael Bishop, Translator, Yves Bonnefoy, Foreword by Bloodaxe Books $22.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-85224-487-3
Insistently and aggressively plumbing issues of form, matter, signification and meaning in a classically chiseled style that is at once austere and excessive, St ti sets himself apart from more colloquial Gallic abstractionists such as Yves Bonnefoy and Jacques Dupin. St ti , a French-Lebanese poet who writes in French, successfully merges elements of Eastern mysticism with the above (quintessentially French) poetic concerns, but his densely elliptical work bears perhaps a stronger debt to German romanticism. Bringing together selections of work from 1973 to 1995, this collection shows a remarkable consistency in theme and tone, frequently conveying a Holderlinian gravity and a spiritual pathos of alterity that's close to that of Rilke and, especially, Trakl: ""Upon her is the barely shining crescent of frost/ Risen most solitary from matter with its wolves/ Holding tribune of speech from the limpid/ Spiders drunk on their constellated silk/ And the poet stretched out in writing/ In a room within a room held/ His fine name turned blue out of inherence/ In the mathematical ends of the moon."" Such heights of grandeur can stiffen into arid symbolism or get lost in paradox that seems not so much exploratory as programmatic: ""Of no meaning is meaning--called meaning/ Lit up like a hotbed of oblivion this grassy minimum/ Via movement of meadows in death."" The relentless, syncretic intensity of St ti 's poetry, found here with the original en face, is generally well served by Canadian professor, critic and anthologist Bishop's faithful translations, giving us a fuller picture of postcolonial French poetry. It's mostly those keeping up with European poetry who will seek it out, but anyone with an ear for stentorian splendor will enjoy it. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 12/04/2000
Release date: 12/01/2000
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!