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Saturday, August 1, 2020

'Poetry . . . Must Be Lived'

“Poetry cannot be explained.  It must be lived.” – Anne Hebert


The daughter of poet and literary critic Maurice Hebert, Anne was born in Quebec, Canada, on this date in 1916.  She won Canada's top literary honor, the Governor General's Award, three times, twice for fiction and once for poetry.  She had works published while still a teenager, and her first collection of poems Les Songes en Équilibre, came out in 1942.  Her masterpiece collection, Poèmes, won the Governor General's Award in 1960. 

      Unfortunately, most of her poems are not widely available in English.  A very serviceable translation of some of her work can be found in A. Poulin’s Day Has No Equal But Night, which presents Hebert’s work in its original French and has Poulin’s translations alongside. 


Like most modern French poetry, Herbert’s works are rhetorical in a way that contemporary English and American poetry tend not to be, and that has made translations difficult.   And thus, I can only recognize this great poet without sharing any of her poems on this 104th anniversary of her birth.


Shortly before her death in 2000, she wrote:  “Poetry colors beings, objects, landscapes and sensations with a kind of new and particular light, which is in fact that of the poet’s emotions.”



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