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Alexander Dickow sent us four unpublished poems.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)
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
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,
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
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.
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