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Review: Talking Vrouz, by Valérie Rouzeau

Ruth Ling, The Wolf, Dec 2013

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 in Winter (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.