Jim Hodges at the UCLA Hammer Museum, January 2015.

"La poésie, c’est un état. Une sorte de vagabondage.

J’avais trois ans, quand un soir, je suis sortie seule. Pour essayer de ramener le clair de lune dans la seau à champagne de mes parents. La poésie c’est ça. Lorsque j’écris, c’est un peu comme une transfusion. Ça n’a rien d’intellectuel.

  Mes mots sont des lanternes éteintes."

"Poetry is a state of mind. A type of vagabondage.

I was three years old when I went out alone one night. To try to catch the moonlight in my parent’s champagne bucket. Poetry is just that. Writing for me is a bit like a transfusion. In it there’s nothing intellectual.

  My words are extinguished lanterns."

- Claude de Burine


Claude de Burine appears in Elles: Bilingual Anthology of Modern French Poetry by Women. Compiled and translated by Martin Sorrell, a professor of modern languages at University of Exeter, it's a weirdly rare show of female French poets in my library in London. There are many fantastic writers featured in the volume, but she struck me hardest.

I couldn't help but fall in love with the images Burine conjures, so I set out to mold my words to hers, translating her "Sous la lumière bleu" myself.

A marvelous translation appears in the above-mentioned Elles, and another, by Liz Chang, appeared in the Adirondack Review. Of course I recommend getting your hands on all three...


Sous la lumière bleue de l’enfance,
Là où le parquet ciré
Sent le miel et le bleuet
Où l’oeillet blanc garde son goût
De vanille et de poivre,
Tu avais la voix
Qui lançait les trains, les navires,
Faisait glisser la barque,
Les péniches au ventre noir
Comme l’exil,
Filer les canards gris
Quand les roseaux étaient des couteaux de nacre
Entre les mains du gel.

Quand venait la nuit
Ta voix allumait les feux des bateaux
Qui vont vers les îles
Et tu partais,
Me laissais les yeux vides de l’absence.
— Claude de Burine
In childhood’s blue light,
there where the waxed floor
smells of honey and cornflower
where the white mum holds its scent
of vanilla and pepper,
you had the voice
that launched trains, ships,
set the boat on its course,
the barges
black-bellied as exile,
set gray ducks aflight
when the reeds were the pearly knives
in frost’s hands.

When night fell
your voice lit boats
on their way to the islands
And you left,
Leaving me wide-eyed at your absence.
— moi
Jim Hodges, Untitled (one day it all comes true), 2013. Photo via Dallas Museum of Art. (Mostly denim.)

Jim Hodges, Untitled (one day it all comes true), 2013. Photo via Dallas Museum of Art. (Mostly denim.)

About the Images.

The first major retrospective of the masterful Jim Hodges toured the US from October 2013 to January 2015, exhibited at the Dallas Museum of Art, the ICA in Boston, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the UCLA Hammer Museum. Let's hope and pray and cross our fingers that Europe soon gets the chance to see such a collection of his stunningly beautiful works, constructed lovingly from the most unexpected materials.

- Barbara

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