Gallery

Marseille: La Calanque de Sugiton and ¨Pines¨

 
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The Maritime Alps look as though they are in the midst of being thrust off the land into the sea, destined to crumble, as they were formed, under the pressure of an earthly shift and to be swallowed.
 
 
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The descent to the calanque of Sugiton invokes the sublime. If only it were possible to pan out and watch hundreds of millions of years pass in a minute; instead, the viewer can only grasp at a terrific motion that seems, in this one moment, to be frozen.
 
 
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At the calanque, level views of the mediterranean invoke a different kind of awe—a reverence. Those simple, inescapable elements—sun, stone, sea—mingle on the water’s surface along with pines and human bodies, and the correspondences between them all, which seem so historical and enduring, offer a guise of reassurance that the vistas above do not.
 
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Now, when I think of the calanque of Sugiton, I think of the poem ¨Pins¨ (¨Pines¨), by the WWII-era French poet Jules Supervielle, whose poems I happened upon in Marseille and have been translating, for fun and practice, while here in France. Here is an early draft of ¨Pines¨:   
 
Pines
 
O pines

Confronting the sea:

Why must you,

With your fixed gaze,

Demand a response?

I ignore the questions

Posed by your mute height.

Man listens only

To himself (and dies of it,

Like you.) We have never

Found enough silence

In which to meet, in which

Branches and dreams—

Our sands—might mingle.

Yet I turn from myself

To speak of them to you

In verse—for I

Am foolish, deaf friends,

More so than you, you

Pines confronting the sea,

You posers of questions

Confused and dense—

I draw down low into

The meeting place

Where our spirits join;

I am pulled under

And dissolve there

As a wave within a wave.
 
 
 
 
Pins
 
O pins devant la mer,
Pourquoi donc insister
Par votre fixité
A demander réponse?
J’ignore les questions
De votre haut mutisme.
L’homme n’entend que lui,
Il en meurt comme vous.
Et nous n’eûmes jamais
Quelque tendre silence
Pour mélanger nos sables,
Vos branches et mes songes.
Mais je me laisse aller
A vous parler en vers,
Je suis plus fou que vous,
O camarades sourds,
O pins devant la mer,
O poseurs de questions
Confuses et touffues,
Je me mêle à votre ombre,
Humble zone d’entente,
Où  se joignent nos âmes
Où  je vais m’enfonçant,
Comme l’onde dans l’onde.