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Cities without names

by Nicole Brossard
Translated from French by
Sylvain Gallais & Cynthia Hogue
Issue 26 Online Exclusive


when reality overfloods
you say cities without names
trees suddenly too tall
for your memory of childhood
in your eyes always
absence’s present eludes
the great river of your intentions




cities because we’re honest
with our shadows of a new world
buried deep in time and emotion
cities filled with our smells of the world ending
with its pyres, its widows,
its bridges passages and rivers of ink




cities when someone shoves you
says sorry sorrow because of the noise and the rain
seizes around the waist
a melody to lift up the present
the strong perfume of change which fascinates
you every morning still
you love humanity with arms swinging
without oxygen in the middle of its shining debris

Known for her sensual, queer poetics, Nicole Brossard writes in an elliptical style in these poems from her series “Villes.” These cities are not realistic, rather they’re unfamiliar and uncanny. The lack of specificity suggests an obscured but unforgotten past, and a quest “to meet the horizon the day after the horizon.”
Sylvain Gallais is a native French speaker transplanted to the U.S. thirteen years ago. He is currently a professor of French at Arizona State University. An economist by training, he has a co-authored book, France Encounters Globalization (2003), as well as his co-translated collection from the French of Virginie Lalucq and Jean-Luc Nancy, Fortino Sámano (The overflowing of the poem), which won The Harold Morton Landon Translation Award (with Cynthia Hogue) from The Academy of American Poets.
Cynthia Hogue has nine collections of poetry, most recently Revenance, listed as one of the 2014 “Standout” books by the Academy of American Poets, and In June the Labyrinth (Red Hen Press, 2017). With Sylvain Gallais, Hogue co-translated Fortino Sámano (The overflowing of the poem), from the French of poet Virginie Lalucq and philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy (Omnidawn 2012), which won the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets in 2013.   She was a 2015 NEA Fellow in Translation, and holds the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at Arizona State University.