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Cities really

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



cities in water up to their waist
until the morning’s slow and languid destruction
your smile which stretches so far back
that to emerge will finally be
a useful and strident verb




cities suspended above the hours
with their renaissance eyelids
their tricks for healing
chasing the dog the monkey
into museums
stroking palm and fist to hide
the smell of fear, the daily instinct

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.