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Review: Talking Vrouz, by Valérie Rouzeau

The mercurial quality of Valérie Rouzeau's language in this astonishingly
vibrant and humane work is announced in the quirky title of her second
English book, Talking Vrouz. Selected by its translator Susan Wicks from the
diptych of Quand je me de (When I am too) and Vrouz-a Rouzeauesque
neologism coined for the poet by an actor friend-this dual French-English
text which communicates in so many original ways, is bound to prove an
invigorating voice in English poetry. Demonstrating her commitment to the
work of Rouzeau with whom she so obviously shares what she terms 'a
mutuality and affection', Wicks designates herself here as 'poet enthusiast'
rather than as mere translator. Of course, formidable skill and diligence have
been exercised in mirroring in English the lexical density and vibrancy of the
French. While in Cold Spring (2010) Rouzeau conversed as child-adult with
her deceased father, here, as the eponymous title might suggest, she speaks
predominantly with herself. Amidst the surrounding shadows of fate and the
corrosions of modern life, Rouzeau uses the intricate coils of her single
sentence lyrics, and particularly of the sonnets in what Wicks designates her
'diary sequence', to seek the sense of renewal possible in language. Indeed, its
arrangement of unpunctuated sonnets with their special number of lines is the
volume's most sustained expression of its use of numerological systems.
Although much reduced from the original Vrouz, Wicks retains the sequence's
cumulative power by means of thematic pairings and little conversations
striking up between the sonnets themselves. Beloved by poets for its almost
limitless potential for flexibility within constraint, this essentially
asymmetrical form is used by Rouzeau to house her particularly organic
meditations on how to live.