The Poetry of Jean Orizet
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Coming Soon (eBook)
Jean Orizet

Gold and Frost (eBook)
Selected Poems

Translated by
Aletha Reed DeWees
Available for Pre-Order

This item will be available on October
15, 2016.

The University of Texas at Dallas
Ohio University
Mundus Artium Press
    By Doris McGinty Davis

    The collection in this poetry volume, Gold and Frost (L’or et le gel), which consists of four parts, poses the
    question of survival, life after the loss of something precious, in the various strata of that life, which is
    increasingly threatened by the materialistic, technological world. The first section of this book examines
    the primal elements of earth, fire, air, and water, rnetonyrnically seen as Man, Woman, Tree, Insect/Bird,
    and Sea. As these elements of life are being eroded into fragments during the latter twentieth century, the
    poet wonders about their viability and that of his poetic imagination, which alone has the capacity to
    furnish a continuum for those elements. Like these elements, his poetic consciousness is threatened by
    the ice flow of sterility, which must be broken up. The second section. "Dynamiter la source" ("Dynamite
    the spring"), addresses this problem. As "the sea erodes the glacial floe" with its salt, so the poet must
    dynamite the clocked spring of his poetic imagination, clearing it of all detritus, releasing the living water of
    poetry, leaving the poet free to recreate the world and its genesis, as seen in the third section,
    "Fragments dun oratorio" ("'Fragments of an oratorio "). The fourth section deals with a privileged place,
    "Venise" ("Venice"), where water, like the fertility of the poetic imagination, is once again the dominant
    force in the technologically fragmented world.

    How does Orizet define the position of the poet in the fragmented world with which he has chosen to
    interact') The poet is caught between "the diluvian pronouncement" and "the wilderness’ cracked seal."

    Et nous, les poétes qui survivons a I’annee, comment
    placer notre parole entre la phrase diluvienne et le
    signe craquelé du désert,  

    comment habiter nos fronts opposés. nos regards éclarés
    face au blanc-noir des certitudes?

    How can we, poets who survive from year to year.
    impose our word between diluvian pronouncement
    and the wilderness’ cracked seal.

    how inhabit opposing brows, confronting gazes shattered
    by black-white of certitudes?

    Thu the poet establishes a tension between the flowing fertility of his imagination and the cracked sterile
    glaze caused by the technological world, which, on the surface, is composed of black and white certitudes,
    void of mystery and beliefs "unproven." It is a world that is breaking up into bits and pieces- fragments.

    Orizet’s awareness of a fragmented order is reflected in his style, in the terse, rapid-fire outbursts of his
    language, comparable to the staccato sounds of electronic computers. In such language a bird in ravaged
    nature becomes visibly and auditorily broken in the torrent of harsh consonantal sounds of a lapidary-like
    poem: "l’oiseau brisé/piéte parmi les bees déclats/." ("the bird savaged/ steps through splintered beaks/. ")
    In an alternating dense prose poem, the prancing of the North Sea stings through the zebra-like zig-
    zagging marked by the alternation of hard and soft sounds: "Caracolant sous arc-en-ciel, la mer du Nord a
    des allures de zébre." ("Capering under rainbow, the North Sea prances like a zebra.") In such a way does
    the language of Orizet recreate the brittleness of the dichotomy he sees between a disintegrating
    civilization and the power of poetic language. However, paradoxically, it is through his poetry that Orizet
    must create the illusion of continuity, or survival in a fragmented world.  

    To survive and poetize in this world of disintegration, Orizet must maintain his distance from the
    technological world by playing with language. Ironically, Orizet seizes the very terms of materialistic
    society, turns them against that society, and thus establishes a coherent, dialectic pattern between
    technology and fragile nature, between the macroscopic and the microscopic. Such a pattern , follows that
    of the imagination of a child who makes miniatures of the gigantic shapes of the adult world in order to
    protect himself. Thus Orizet concentrates upon the "little" things in nature in order to distance himself from
    the giant of technology. He accomplishes this through the use of the macroscopic terms of technology to
    describe the minute details of nature (a flower with petals of pitch).

    As Orizet weaves this pattern of the reduction of the size of technological values by concentration on the
    minute, the reader is reminded of the weave in the inverse or negative pattern of the warp and woof found
    in the underside of woven material. In fact, Orizet even speaks of "la trame" ("the weave") of his poetry,
    thus emphasizing the process of inversion. The inversion is further structured by the use of aphorisms, the
    cross-wise fusion of earth and water, puns, play on words, and semantic allusions: all of which generate,
    often arbitrarily, an indefinite multiplicity of images.

    As a result of this playful manipulation, Orizet is in reality detached from the materialistic world, present
    only in his imaginary time/space. From such a privileged viewpoint, he can observe all the marvelousness
    brought about by his poetic imagination. In that privileged zone, or "entre-temps" ("meanwhile"), the poet,
    similar to the child and his unfettered imagination, never feels threatened, for with a blink of his poetic eye,
    he can instantly transform an image into one or many images.

    What is the nature of the images that make up the weave of the material from which Orizet creates his
    imagery? Woven from the accidental to which the poet/child has recourse, the images attain a certain
    instantaneous spontaneity and vivacity, even when they satirize the comfortable, materialistic life as a "ripe
    red apple existence." Often the images are elliptic as they mock the materialists by presenting them as
    mere silhouettes without dimensions except their bare stick figures with bulging stomachs and blank faces.
    These images resemble cut-outs pasted in collage fashion on flat surfaces. The literary process (similar to
    the painting techniques of Kandinsky?) appears semi-automatic and seems to establish Orizet's images
    somewhere between surrealism and realism.

    Often these images seem to be naive, amusing ideograms which may or may not lead to the cosmic.
    Images tumble like bits of sparkling glass on the flat surface: flowers with petals of pitch, steely needles of
    sun's rays, the world globe scarred with tar and asphalt, male semen spewed forth as a crystalline
    substance. Often the images seem to be hieroglyphic in nature. rooted in some sort of human pre-
    consciousness: the "Toi" ("You") of Santa Cruz de Tenerife whose pregnant shape, like that of the woman,
    hides the legend of lost youth.

    On the other hand, in Mira-like fashion, Orizet's images seem over-realistic and border on the
    hallucinatory. Poetic inspiration is seen in medical terms as "the lung" whose "elan" leaves the poet and
    rises in parabolic traces to steal, pirate-like, the sky; the "lung" whose breathing forces more oxygen into
    the blood stream, making the blood clearer, thinner, more apt to absorb the air (the world). The
    metaphoric eye of poetic consciousness, used in traditional terms, becomes a biological eye whose fluid
    has been "gummed up" by pollution and becomes transformed into laminated metal. Its round shape
    resembles a traffic circle filled with all the detritus caused by the traffic of technology. The traditional poet
    with a blank metallic stare is reduced in size to a tole-eyed Tom Thumb. This reduced image seems to
    leave the poet/child no way out of his imaginary comer. As a result, the hallucinatory image changes into
    another, which takes on the configuration of its technical surroundings by mimicking them. During this
    process of child-like mimesis, the eye of the poetic consciousness once again becomes a biological eye,
    whose fluid, however, is acetylene, a chemical term to describe colorless, gaseous hydrocarbide found in
    torches that solder metallic surfaces. Hallucinatory is the resulting image of an "eye-torch," ready to fuse
    poetic equivalencies between poetic imagery and the metallic technological world.

    Such images shock and grate on the reader's sensitivity and often bewilder him in their plethora of rapid
    changes. As a result the reader risks losing himself in the multiple semantic allusions that seem to spin
    crazily off of each other: allusions that are known only to the poet and to those who have read his entire

    But there is reconciliation brought about by the elliptic, collage-like, hallucinatory images that cavort on the
    flat surfaces of the poems. Their reduplication, the schema of inversion in the "entre-temps" ("the
    meanwhile") lead to a temporal repetition. Indeed, Orizet playfully recreates this repetition in the various
    seasons by a cyclical movement. It is as if the poet were greatly influenced by the theories of Klee, who
    wrote, "... I sense a formula for man, animal, plant, earth, fire, water, air, and all circling forms at once."
    Such a formula would reconcile all the diverse elements of the finite and the infinite in an endless act of
    recreation. The literary formula for a reconciliation of the opposites of Orizet’s world (technology and
    nature) is found in the privileged middle space of the volume, as the visual symbol of the shell. "Nautilc"
    ("Nautilus"). It is the child/poet's listening post for the resonance of the "secret deeps." Its spiral is known
    to be important in the iconography of cultures whose thought revolves around the myth of the equilibrium
    of opposites. It is the aquatic symbol of woman. Within its structure, spiral and whirlpool arc reconciled as
    well as jet propulsion (technology) and free fall (poetry). Although its very internal structure seems to be in
    a state of static growth, it never changes its outward form. It is the symbol of permanence in change. It is
    the symbol of the intimate secrets of the poetic imagination, as seen in Niveaux de survie.

    Niveaux de survie is one of the latest steps in the development of the poetry of Jean Orizet. If his first
    volume, Errance, was the laboratory where the poet experimented with all word forms and where
    intertextual references abound, this volume is more finely honed, more elliptic in thought. In fact, its poetry
    doesn’t lend itself easily to analysis, because every word is so charged with meaning that the original
    meaning often seems to disappear in a surfeit of images, each of which has its own networks which in turn
    interweave. The reader is reminded of the words of Mallarme, who states in his "Dictionary," "... Language
    charged with expressing all the phenomena of Life, borrows something from it; it lives… "In such a way,
    Orizet’s language has a life of its own, as each new set of poetic circumstances sets up its own linguistic
    variants with their own reflections.

    The poetry of Jean Orizet, susceptible to change in circumstances, becomes existential and authentic, as
    the poet lives his poetry in an atmosphere of constant change. The seigniorial metaphor for reconciliation,
    the castle, of Erranee becomes the many-chambered nautilus. The "passerelles" ("foot-bridges") of the
    "entre-temps" ("the game of the meanwhile") of Errance become the jammed traffic circle of Niveaux.
    Nature and humanity have been flayed by technology and the "ripe red apple," comfortable life. Yet
    survival for the world will be in the poetry of those who seek "the uncertainties," the "unprovable beliefs": in
    the simple joy of being. For even when pessimism enters the poetry of Orizet, joy is reflected in the gentle,
    refined, elegant, child-like humor that permeates his works. Such in brief is the esthetic quest of Jean
    Orizet in Niveaux de survie.  
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