Poets just pretend to die
In his film The Testament of Orpheus, Jean Cocteau pronounces a very beautiful sentence, while his relatives gather around his remains: “My friends, pretend to cry, because poets only pretend to die. ” Taking up the phrase of Christ, he had also engraved on his own grave: ” I stay with you. ” And yet, how can one not be seized with sadness at the death of Philippe Jaccottet on February 24? This high-ranking poet was a living feature with the idea of a certain Europe where Rainer Maria Rilke walked his dreams in the company of those of Rodin, where Ungaretti seemed to continue, through the centuries, the dialogue opened by Dante and Petrarch. .
What struck me about his death was that with him died the last great poet celebrated as such: as proof, his entry into the Pleiade during his lifetime. Let me understand correctly: no that there are no other poets, younger and equally talented – I am thinking among others of Jean Lavoué, Jean-Pierre Vidal or Jean-Yves Masson, Colette Nys-Mazure or Eric Poindron. But who will know such influence, especially among the youngest, in a world now closed to the voices of the Muses and all that they reveal to us about the song of the soul?
At the same time as that of Jaccottet struck me the death of Cédric Demangeot. This 46-year-old poet in full dress, for his part, continued the legacy of Antonin Artaud – a commitment of the whole being for what, in a commercial world, has no price, that is, if the we want to be fair, even that which gives life its supreme value. But after all, perhaps Cocteau is right: these poets cannot die. They just pretended. They come after or before. They punctuate our lives by virtue of present and immemorial demands, just as in divine worship.
I was thinking of them when I opened Yves Bonnefoy’s posthumous book, The unfinished (1), which has just been published and which reveals new meditations to us. And then what joy! It was again as if I were climbing rue Lepic to find him and hear him tell me again, in his measured voice, which is the basis of the intensity of our lives: the search not for happiness, but for an ecstasy where everything fits together, where all contradictions are canceled, where agreement is suddenly made between cry, music and silence. The unfinished : in this title, how can we not hear Rilke’s verse, which says that we are all, whatever our position, placed “Somewhere in the Unfinished” ? Our life, they remind us together, is a field open to infinity, despite its small part, a space forever intact where all possibilities are summoned to offer the spectacle of the universe and its ever-new dawn. , that our dreams and our actions shelter.
Should I believe it, in this time when we are repeatedly told that we are sick, victims, numbers. What if we were none of these, my friends? And if, at the very heart of the disease, we still had the possibility of what Rimbaud called “Essential health” ? And if even in the midst of our sufferings, it was still possible for us to refuse what denies us, not out of hatred exclusively, but out of a higher love? Where we see that poetry, such as Jaccottet, Demangeot or Bonnefoy conceived it, is quite another thing than an apprehension of the prettiness of things. It is this movement of insurrection which postulates, in spite of the harassing news which painfully tends to make us believe the contrary, that we are alive, and that we can remain so by fidelity to ourselves. And that even death has no hold on the one who lives these seconds when the heavens come to open, and where absence is absorbed by the ascending life.
The last time I saw Yves Bonnefoy, he told me about Baudelaire. And now, in this posthumous book, I find his words: “All the authors are alive. Baudelaire, to whom I have devoted for fifty years these essays which I have just collected in volume, or Shakespeare, which I translated piece by piece during the same period, are as alive for me as any of my contemporaries. ” This same Baudelaire whose birth we are celebrating two hundred years ago? But who knows? Perhaps it was he who was two hundred years ahead of his contemporaries, to the point of speaking to us today in a voice clearer than any other, and which resonates like never before. So I can think that Jaccottet and Bonnefoy will be present in the future, as signs of a hope that they urge us not to forget, to fully enliven.