Hold The Line
(An Essay on Poetry) between france and singapore
In this book, Pierre Vinclair investigates the different forms and functions of verse in French poetry from 1850 until now.
I am currently listening to an audiobook, Philip Glass’s Words without Music. It tells of this realisation that happened when he worked with Richard Serra the visual artist:
During one of our working days together, I said to Richard,
“You know, Richard, I wish I could draw. I can’t even draw a tree.”
“I can help you with that.”
“I’ll teach you to ‘see’ and then you will be able to draw.”
I was completely stunned by his suggestion. Straightaway I had the following thought:
Drawing is about seeing, dancing is about moving, writing (narrative and especially poetry ) is about speaking, and music is about hearing.
The idea that poetry is about speaking provides a useful entry into the point behind Pierre’s essay: for Pierre, as for Philip, poetry involves specific and deliberate uses of language to define and share the act of speaking, to convey the meaning expressed through the act.
What can this idea and realisation do for you as poet or reader? By coincidence, you may decide to start using language in different ways to define and share speech and meaning. Likewise, that this essay is written by a French poet and published in Singapore is an outcome of both chance and choice. And it would be absolutely marvellous that you are reading and experiencing this in France, Singapore, or a place that is neither here nor there.
About the author
Pierre Vinclair lived in Singapore from 2017 to 2019. He is a French poet, critic, translator and editor. He is the author of over 15 published books, most recently La Sauvagerie [ ‘wildness’; bilingual French / English ], 500 poems on the 6th extinction featuring 50 French and Singapore guests, and its theoretical counterpart, Agir non agir. Éléments pour une poésie de la résistance écologique [ ‘Act no act. Bullets for a poetry fighting against Climate Change’ ].
To date, he has translated into French Derek Walcott’s Morning, Paramin, the Chinese Shijing and Christine Chia’s two collections. He was awarded the Villa Kujoyama in Literature in 2010 and the
Heredia Prize from Académie Française in 2014. As an editor, he runs S!NG ( which published the French translation of Sharon Olds’s Odes) and is the Chief Editor of Catastrophes, a paper and online poetry magazine. He has a PhD in Philosophy of Literature.