Five minutes with Alexander Dickow

Alexander Dickow sent us four unpublished poems. At Slow Culture, that’s what we call an honor.

Alexander Dickow is assistant professor of French at Virginia Tech, located in Blacksburg, Virginia. He is a scholar of French literature, a translator, and a poet. His poetry includes Caramboles (Paris: Argol Editions, 2008), poems in French and English, and a chapbook in English from Corrupt Press, Trial Balloons (2012). Scholarly works include an essay on French modernism, Le Poète innombrable: Blaise Cendrars, Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob (Paris: Hermann, 2015). A short poetic treatise or long essayistic poem in French, Rhapsodie curieuse (diospyros kaki), is due out from Editions Louise Bottu in early 2017. Dickow is currently in the process of translating La Horde du contrevent by Alain Damasio and La Quête infinie de l’autre rive by Sylvie Kandé, and a translation of the work of the Swiss poet Gustave Roud is currently in search of a publisher. More information on Dickow and his work is available at http://www.alexdickow.net.

 

Poèmes d’un manuscrit inédit intitulé Appetites (Appétits)

Ascent

Upper and more up upon the crest

So yearn we forth ourselves

Compelled full pinnacle above

Atop hills we rise over

Increased we clamber steps

And far encompass out these arms

Of hunger and horizon

We are grown high and heady

With sheer crescendo and beyond

Our upmost hope our home

We watch it rise our refuge

Out of reach

 

Descente

Ainsi déclinons-nous dedans

Notre moelle native et au-dessous

De nous chavirent, défaillent et plongent

Chaque défaite et toute ruine nôtres

Moindre et moins assuré

Notre pouls en descente

Est une témérité,

cette capitulation

Qui noie le cœur

Et la douleur

Crescendo dal niente

Clues will lull the slow hush down

The narrow strain, an aria

Like intimations come to night

At first no louder than a scent

Though soon brighter than a drone

No paean, but a fierce defeat

A hazy stab in the dawn

More a murmur than a kiss

Yet just as desperate, a call

To rise deeper than the weather

Faster than the smallest number

Higher even than praise or war

Diminuendo (morendo)

Hard proof has rolled the shrill cry up

To the vicious pitch of squalls

And shaken skiffs, a chiming out

At once more deafening than shame

Though soon less raucous than the sky

An anthem still, and dissonant

As flame’s uneven unison

Less a conflict than a bloom

And just as frail, a whisper soon

To listen closer than the ear

Beneath the faintest hue, smaller

Even than silence, or the truth

 

These poems are about movement and change: as the titles suggest, they are meant to reach upward or fall downward, to grow louder or softer. On some level, these movements seem somehow archetypical to me; as human beings, we rise and fall, we dwindle or we dilate, especially affectively, but not solely.

 

What inspires Alexander Dickow?

Music: The Sound, Jeopardy; Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea; the work of Jason Molina (of Songs: Ohia and the Magnolia Electric Company); Erik Satie, Scriabin, Television, Kiln, my brother Paul Dickow who produces music under the moniker Strategy…many others.

Books: The Lord of the Rings, David Copperfield, Melville’s Moby-Dick and The Confidence Man, Les Amours jaunes, Les Divagations, Le Cornet à dés, Damas’ Black-Label, Büchner’s Woyzeck, Benjamin Fondane’s Mal des fantômes, Yehuda Amichai, and many others.

Poems: poems by Theodore Roethke, Bill Knott, Gertrude Stein, Paul Celan (the late work), and many others in English and French especially (but also Russian – I’m a big Mandelstam fan, notably).

Painters and sculptors: the great paintings by Max Ernst, such as Europe après la pluie I and II; Brancusi, Schwitters, Sophie Taeuber-Arp.

Films: Marcel Carné’s Quai des brumes (along with the other great Carné films), Marker’s La Jetée, all of Terry Gilliam’s work, Jeunet and Caro’s Cité des enfants perdus, les films de Chaplin…tant d’autres! Je suis un amateur du muet.

 

Compiled by Marc Louis-Boyard for Slow Culture.


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