cover image Nioque of the Early-Spring

Nioque of the Early-Spring

Francis Ponge, trans. from the French by Jonathan Larson. Song Cave, $17.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-9988290-3-6

Appearing for the first time in English and assembled from journals written by French essayist and poet Ponge in the South of France in April of 1950, this vibrant collection of brief, observational lyric essays comprises meditations on the nature of time, as well as the possibilities and limitations of language’s ability to capture such thinking. The project is to “consider the artist as a researcher” and grows ever more gripping by means of Ponge’s careful and unselfconscious renderings of nature, framing it as embodying a language of its own. In “Confirmation of the Pear Trees,” for instance, “their knotted ‘writing’,the form of their trunks,” results from an “erasure” caused by paring away branches. Ponge underscores his point by using parentheses to cleave away certain words: “Thus, often, when one trims (practices amputation on) the language (a sentence), certain words that remain take on this character (trunks or branches of pear-trees).” This book was first published shortly before the sociopolitical upheavals of 1968, and Ponge’s focus on signs of spring, rebirth, and change took on a larger, more incendiary meaning. Though readers may wish this were a dual-language version, Larson’s translation nonetheless conveys the brilliant manner in which Ponge both describes his world and uses it to engage a deeper discussion. (May)