Poème en Français (and translated)

I have not shared here how utterly in love with the French language I  have become. Last July, and I do not even remember exactly what happened but something did…last July I fell head over heels in love with French and all things Français. Like my other full blown long-term passions — field botany was the first, then poetry, then ——, then art, and now French — the transformation from someone who a few minutes before had no use for whatever it was — French in this case — into someone wildly passionate and devoted to the object of her desires happened in the space of moments. It was as usual truly like a religious “conversion experience”, no other expression adequately expresses this sort of Road to Damascus lightning strike experience. One minute I was just going along, doing art of course, and passionate about it, but having zilch interest in French…then with a nearly audible WHOMP! everything changes, as it changed last July and I literally transformed from someone who was at best lukewarm towards French, and France, to someone passionately in love!


i will write more about such experiences another time. (And never fear, my passion for art remains. ) but for now I wanted to share this poem, originally written in English for my book, LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS, but which last night I was moved to try to translate. If you perhaps are francophone and even a native speaker, I would LOVE any criticism or critique you might provide for how the French actually sounds to someone who knows it well.


Be that as it may, the translation in English, that is to say, the original version, is also below.



qui pourrait être assis, comme moi,

dans un fauteuil vert, un thé à la main

regardant à travers de la porche

jusqu’au lampadaire  sans lumière au dehors du restaurant,

livre sur les genoux, le mien j’espérerais,

le seul livre que je dois évoquer

si j’évoque aucun livre dans un poème,

au lecteur, le méticuleux,

qui pourrait être se demandant pourquoi

sur la page 47 il y a deux « et »

l’un après l’autre, et à qui est la faute,

et au lecteur qui est peut-être fatigué

après un long trajet en bus chez lui

après un repas qui ne valait rien,

un lecteur qui ramasse mon livre, mais s’endort

avant de l’ouvrir, à tous je dis : Pardonnez-moi

je ne suis qu’une écrivaine, assise

dans un fauteuil vert, un thé à la main,

je ne peux pas expliquer ces deux « et »

ni le lampadaire mystérieux

ni réchauffer les pieds d’un lecteur fatigué

dans son lit. Je ne peux que mettre la musique

et raconter histoires

pour que des films tournent dans la tête,

pour le réveiller avec la compréhension soudaine

que c’est la poésie qui peut faire achever la vie,

eh bien, il peut faire achever ma vie au moins,

et peut être la sienne, et peut-être la vie

d’un méticuleux, et votre vie aussi,

tous ici assis, regardant à travers de la porche

jusqu’au lampadaire  sans lumière,

là où ce qui se passe si mystérieusement

est de la poésie –

et la nuit entière est enveloppée

dans les mots dits par deux étrangers

qui là se rencontrent,

ou peut-être les mots non-dits,

ce qui est de la poésie aussi,

et tous qui écoutent, nous attendons

la musique de ce qui se passera.



TO THE reader

who may be sitting as I am

in a green recliner with a cup of tea

staring out through the porch

to a darkened streetlamp outside the diner,

with a book in her lap, mine, I hope

the only one I feel I should have to mention

if I mention a book in a poem I write;

to the reader, the nitpicker, the one

who may be wondering why

on p. 47 there are two ands, one

right after another, and whose fault that is;

and to the reader, who may be tired

after a long ride home on the bus

after dark and a meal not worth mentioning

who picks up my book but finds his eyes

closing before he has opened the cover,

I say: Forgive me

I am only a writer sitting in a green recliner

with a cup of tea, I can’t explain

those two ands or the mysterious

streetlamp or warm the feet of a tired

reader in his bed. I can only put music on

and tell him stories to make movies

turn in his head, to let him wake

with the sudden understanding that poetry

may be all it takes to make a life—

well, my life at any rate, and maybe his,

and maybe the nitpicker’s and yours, too,

staring through the porch to the streetlamp

where what happens so mysteriously ispoetry—

and the whole night is wrapped

in the words spoken by two strangers

meeting there, or not spoken, which is poetry too,

and all of us who listen are waiting

for the music of what is to happen.












6 thoughts on “Poème en Français (and translated)”

  1. Hi Rossa

    Yes I thought of “resto” but my understanding is that it is akin to slang — used in speech but not in writing … I could not find an exact match for “diner” but perhaps some of these problems can be resolved after my sejour in Sancerre for the month of October… if you have any thoughts on this all are appreciated ! Also not looking for exact word translation so much as 1) French that works absolutely 2) the general sense … for example fauteuil simply sounds better to me than chaise longue and since the difference makes no change in thrust of poem I used fauteuil. Diner if there is an exact translation would be great!

    My best to you



  2. Geez, the more get into the words you’ve chosen, the more fascinating your translation becomes. For example, you use restaurant as diner, and well, it could be restaurant but my thought would be that “resto” might be more appropriate. Hey, I’m no French scholar, my translator also shows “convive” but I think that probably means the person who’s sitting near you in the diner or resto or restaurant or brasserie or café. Did I say your poetry is always wonderful? Again, I’m no scholar but my thoughts on reading your poems always turn to Emily Dickinson. Will try to pick/nitpick some more through your lovely words.


  3. Hi Rossa,

    I have put in lampadiere several times in word reference etc and it is always corrected to lampadaire…at least on the internet. In the WordReference section concerning lampadaire and réverbère they all say lampadaire is the word and that it means both floor light and streetlamp, . maybe you can explain where and how you come by this word, lampadiere? (The use of fauteuil was deliberate, However)


  4. Thank you so much for these corrections! I did not come across lampadiere, but the difference is of course crucial… thanks a million i will correct thé poème immediately!


  5. Love French, too, and am blown away by your new found interest and fluency. If I may, I’ll offer two suggestions based on my perceived understanding of which French word is most suitable. I believe that a lampadaire is a floor lamp, a lampadière is a street lamp. A fauteuil is an armchair, a chaise longue would be a recliner. I’d love to plough through this a little more tonight, but the gym is beckoning. I must do my “musculation.”


  6. Love the English version of your poem. Sorry, French is Greek to me.

    I wonder why your IPad went bonkers. My Fire tablet occasionally gets a little out of hand, too. But not that bad. Yet..


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