Sunday, July 27, 2008


The Book: Samuel Beckett, COLLECTED POEMS IN ENGLISH AND FRENCH. Grove Press trade paperback, 1977. Fine condition.
First read: 1991
Owned since: 1991

"Words are all we have," wrote Beckett, and it was true for him, at least. I wouldn't disagree; words are the only thing that separate us from the lower primates. Monkeys, as I've observed before, fling poo only because they lack the outlet of the witty riposte. (That is also true of some political commentators, but never mind.)

Beckett was a prolific playwright and novelist, but his poems are my favorite work, and the easiest to appreciate for the casual reader. Like his plays, most really ought to be read aloud, but they are beautiful on the page as well. This collection includes his translations of poems by Eluard, Rimbaud, Apollinaire and Sebastien Chamfort, a writer I hadn't encountered before I read this book.

Beckett's own poems cover a wide range of subjects, but all come back to love:

the churn of stale words in the heart again
love love love thud of the old plunger
pestling the unalterable
whey of words

terrified again
of not loving
of loving and not you
of being loved and not by you
of knowing not knowing pretending

Except, that is, the few that come back to death. Love and death, Beckett's twin obsessions, and you have to laugh:
you won't cure it you won't endure it
it is you it equals you any fool has to pity you
so parcel up the whole issue and send it along
the whole misery diagnosed undiagnosed misdiagnosed...

Only a few days left of this incarnation of the blog, and we might have a couple of double posts in the week ahead. And no, I don't know what the next version will be, but will discuss it on Friday.


Caleb said...

I am not looking forward to the end. I found this blog much too late for it to be ending so soon.

worldpeace said...

great post