Conjugate poetry in the present

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Philippe Jaccottet left on the night of February 24. His readers, the great family of those who recognized him as a brother in words, feel orphans. These readers are found in the four corners of the globe as the work of the poet, born in Moudon, was translated far and wide, with rare fervor. The words remain. The poet leaves having reread the proofs of three books which will appear on March 4: a collection of poems, The Last Book of Madrigals, a notebook, The Clarity Notre-Dame (Gallimard) and a collection of texts on art, Hello, Mr. Courbet (La Dogana / Le Bruit du temps). Three last works like a greeting, by hand, before setting out in the landscapes of the Drôme, where he will have lived most of his life.

The pulse of the world

Where does this fear come from, this fear of not understanding, of being faced with greater than oneself, with the complicated, the arid when one pronounces the word “poetry”? School and compulsory readings? King entertainment that demands flash on every floor? Of our frenzy of work, of productivity that prevents us from taking the pulse of the world as we put our hand on the forehead of a child to know if he has a fever?

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It is worth doing a very simple experiment. Take a collection or a notebook from among the sixty or so books that make up the work of Philippe Jaccottet. Open it, to any page. The poet is there, right next to him, shoulder to shoulder. Never above or overhanging. He walks. We walk with him. He searches for the words to express the world as accurately as possible. Sometimes he would like the words to dissipate in vapor to let the crazy beauty of the moment vibrate in all its brilliance.


He also speaks of the depths of human experience: the death of loved ones, illness. Nevertheless, under the poet’s eyes, the world in its most frail shape, a somewhat withered flower, a morning light, the sound of a bell in the distance, invites us to start moving again. All of Philippe Jaccottet’s work is a call to combine poetry in the present, at the heart of everyday life. To remove all ceremonial masks from him. To find the most accurate words, that is to say the simplest. In our troubled times, these words resonate, clear, limpid.