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Review: Talking Vrouz, by Valérie Rouzeau

Valerie Rouzeau is by now a star in the firmament of contemporary French poetry, though she is far too crackingly alive to be 'fixed' as yet. Her collection Cold Spring in Winter, a lament written after the death of her father, in a highly original mixture of childish babil, associative wordplay and laconic control, delivered a rare emotional charge. In succeeding books she has amplified the range of her instrument, a combination of absolute phonic and semantic freedom kept in check by compacted line-length, the exigencies of cadence, and a jumpy but still recognisable grammatical syntax. This is nowhere no so than in the virtuoso series of quasi-sonnets that make up the diary poem 'Vrouz': typically, Rouzeau pounced on a bon mot - a well know actor had hailed her previous book with a delighted "Voici du Vrouz!", which seems to capture something of these headlong jags of punning and associative slippage.

She is the sort of poet who will instantly adapt the technical term "départ en periode bleue", ie the off-peak rate, and leak it into the blues of late journeys with no one waiting at the other end. And "Je voudrais conduire un corail jusqu'à la mer" again using the train corail, the SNCF name for their now old-fashioned (pre-TGV) Express train, becomes magical in Wicks's "I'd like to drive a Coral train right to the sea".