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Christian Hubin. Maintenant. Paris. Jose Corti. 1998. 197 pages. 115 F. ISBN 2-7143-0665-9.

The most recent collection of poems from Christian Hubin will only strengthen his position as one of Belgium's most talented contemporary poets and is sure to share the same success that several of his other collections have enjoyed, from such early works such as Le chant decapite la nuit (1968) and La parole sans lieu suivi de Demeure consumee (1975) to more recent volumes like Continuum (1991), Parlant seul (1993), and Ce qui est (1995).

Maintenant contains 185 poems distributed among three untitled divisions. They are generally in short, free-verse form, and most comprise merely five to twenty words, though some are a bit longer. Spacing and position on the page, as well as punctuation, are obvious concerns for Hubin, and his grouping of words serves to break the rhythm in such a way that it reinforces the overall expanding and constricting movement of the collection. This esthetic arrangement often isolates carefully chosen vocabulary that suggests stasis or mobility, two consistently recurring themes throughout the text. His conservative use of italic print-a paucity of words in only seven of the 185 poems-highlights moments of apostrophe and anaphora as the poet addresses the other.

The fragmented poems that dominate Maintenant call to mind the pulverized poetry of Rene Char and express Hubin's ongoing interest in the power of language, a preoccupation that has been in the foreground of his poetry from the beginning: "Je m'enfermerai dans la protestation profonde du langage" (Le chant decapite la nuit); "Il y a ce besoin de me justifier, de me sauver en tant que petit individu par un acte de langage et de litterature qui s'appelle le poeme" (interview with Frans De Haes in Six poetes, 1980). In his most recent endeavor, language is an act by which the moment is captured "dans le choc concentrique de maintenant." The poetic world of Maintenant is a struggle between the mobile, reinforced by an abundant repetition of vocabulary that evokes movement (gestes, bouger, dilatation, battement, froissement), and the static (immobilise, fixite, figer). For Hubin, the "moment" is paramount, and on several occasions he uses expressions such as "le choc d'un moment" or "a un moment ou." His intention to "fix" things, to absorb them in the ephemeral moment that occurs at the crossroads of inhaling and exhaling, of contraction and extension, of silence and "vrombissement," is evident in one of the most striking images of the collection: "Le bruit de l'eponge quand elle se fige."

For the experienced Hubin reader, the pleasure of Maintenant lies in the well-developed, fully matured, fragmented style of the poet. For the initiate, this collection offers a rewarding example of the creativity of language in the hands of one of Europe's finest contemporary poets.

Logan E. Whalen

University of Oklahoma
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Title Annotation:Review
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1999
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