Guillevic: Selected Poems – Eugene Guillevic, Denise Levertov (1969)


“… Eugene Guillevic was born in Carnac, Morbihan, Brittany in 1907.  He began writing poetry as a child, inspired primarily by the Fables of La Fontaine.  Upon passing his baccalaureate in 1926 he was assigned a series of governmental positions including as Inspecteur d’Economie National from 1946 to 1963. His work developed through the Surrealist period and into a more personal simplicity and maturity later in his life.  He received Le Grand Prix de Poesie from the French Academy in 1976 and Le Grand Prix National de Poesie in 1984.  Guillevic died in 1997. In her book of translations of selected Guillevic poems, the poet Denise Levertov observed that:  ‘The great ritual places of the Celts . . . the places where the great and small stones or menhirs, are gathered in powerful and enigmatic testimony to forgotten certainties, are landscapes of a profound austerity.’ … The relationships that bind forms together in nature cannot be pure chance, and what we call ‘natural life’ is in effect a relationship between forms, so inexorable that without it this natural life could not exist.  So it is with art as well.  The formal relationships within a work of art and among different works of art constitute an order for, and a metaphor of, the entire universe.’ For many years while travelling I always carried a set of ink pens and a field sketchbook and close by a copy of a book of poems by Eugene Guillevec that had been translated by Denise Levertov.  These poems were so vivid:  extremely colorful, visual, imaginary.  And solid.  Perfect for a painter. In her translations Levertov observed that Guillevic’s work was based on a ‘… simplicity of diction, the plain and hard meaning of things without descriptive qualification reverberates … with the ambiguity, the unfathomable mystery of natural objects.’ … It is strange, even surreal one might say, how certain images might carry over a great distance and an expanse of time. I have admired, for a long time, the paintings of Kay Sage and Georgia O’Keeffe, finding a shared sensibility between these two women, which alerted me to another shared set of sensibilities between Guillevic and Tanguy, physical and spiritual elements both! The paintings of Yves Tanguy and the poems of Eugene Guillevec show the influence of the Breton landscape in both abstract and physical ways. The formal and lyrical qualities depend greatly on the strange and surreal spirit of this place, the landscape of Brittany, while the litteral and figurative elements seem to depend on the clear observation and depiction of that landscape. Specific forms layed out in a specific space. Although I had always admired this element in Guillevic’s writing, it was also something that bothered me regarding Tanguy’s landscapes. Something overly stylized or self-consciously surreal. …”
The Surrealistic Druids: Part 2, Part 1
Poetry Foundation: Eugene Guillevic
W – Denise Levertov
W – Menhir
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1960s: Days of Rage  Carnac (1961)


Large menhir located between Millstreet and Ballinagree, County Cork, Ireland

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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