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Pierre Joris

1946–

Born on July 14, 1946 in Strasbourg, France, Pierre Joris is a poet, translator and essayist.

Pierre Joris is the author of over forty books. As one of the foremost translators of avant-garde poetry into both French and English, he frequently explores the lesser-known works of both major and obscure experimental poets. His translations include Exile is My Trade: A Habib Tengour Reader (Black Widow Press, 2012); Paul Celan: Selections (University of California Press, 2005); 4X1: Works by Tristan Tzara, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jean-Pierre Duprey, and Habib Tengour (Inconundrum Press, 2003); and Pppppp: Kurt Schwitters Poems, Performance, Pieces, Proses, Plays, Poetics (Temple University Press, 1994). Of his translations of Paul Celan, poet Michael Palmer said: "Joris has dwelled during the better part of his life in Celan's words and silences…he has journeyed through the work's intricacies like very few others."

Joris's own poetry, published extensively in chapbooks abroad, has been collected in two volumes, Poasis: Selected Poems 1986-1999 (Wesleyan University Press, 2001), and Breccia: Selected Poems 1972-1986 (Station Hill PR, 1987). He is also a celebrated essayist and editor. In the essay collection A Nomadic Poetics (Wesleyan, 2003), he explores the successes and failings of the avant-garde movement, a subject he surveyed in a two-volume anthology of 20th century avant-garde writings, Poems for the Millennium (University of California Press, 1998), co-edited with Jerome Rothenberg.

He collaborates frequently through dance, multimedia, and music with his wife, the performance artist Nicole Peyrafitte. Twice the recipient of PEN Awards for Translation, he was also the 2003 Berlin Prize fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.

Joris currently lives in New York, where he teaches poetry and poetics at the State University of New York, Albany.

Pierre Joris

By This Poet

2

Altars of Light

If the light is the soul 
then soul is what's 
all around me.

It is you, 
it is around you too, 
it is you.

The darkness is inside me, 
the opaqueness of organs folded 
upon organs—

to make light in the house of
the body—
     thus to bring the
outside in,
     the impossible job.

   And the only place to become
the skin
   the border, the inbetween, where
dark meets light, where I meets
   you.

   In the house of world the 
many darknesses are surrounded 
by light.

   To see the one, we need 
the other / it cuts both ways

   light on light is blind 
   dark on dark is blind

   light through dark is not

   dark through light is movement
   dark through light becomes,
is becoming,
     to move through
light is becoming,

   is all
     we can know.

In Betweenness

is it a good thing to find
two empty pages between the day 
before yesterday & yesterday 
when trying to make room
for the blue opera afternoon 
of today a sunday like any sunday
in may?
            there is no one could tell 
or judge though my own
obsession with the in between 
should dictate the answer
& thus let me rejoice at being able 
to insert today between the
day before yesterday & yesterday 
as if it were the yeast of night 
allowed these spaces to open
(do not say holes to grow)
in the spongy tissue of this
my papery time-space discon- 
tinuum—
            leaven of earth leaven of writing 
of running writing to earth
in these in betweenesses that now 
please as much as the opera in ear 
that asks que dieu vous le rende dans
l’autre monde but the desire is to stay right 
here in this world this in between even as 
the sound changes the radio sings son 
vada o resti intanto non partirai
di qua

            exactly my feeling sheltered on these 
pages now filled and pushing up against 
yesterday

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