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Yves Bonnefoy. L'imaginaire metaphysique.

Yves Bonnefoy. L'imaginaire metaphysique. Paris. Seuil. 2006. 163 pages. 19.50 [euro]. ISBN 2-02-086456-8

TEN ESSAYS, largely appearing previously in various publications in Italy, Belgium, France, and Switzerland, are offered in L'imaginaire metaphysique, with a foreword that argues their continuity of preoccupation, one that is soon apparent and, indeed, at the epicenter of Yves Bonnefoy's magisterially focused and yet stunningly diverse oeuvre. What is at issue here is that ontologically diverting desire at the heart of the "metaphysical imaginary," both desire and dream, synonymous with the thrust of a gnostic craving for an other world that poetry only, Bonnefoy senses, "poetry which is not art, poetry which is both unbridled imagination and adherence to the greatest simpleness of existence," can adequately counterbalance. "Poetry," Bonnefoy affirms, "is wanting the here and now to assume precedence over dreams," a precedence the prestige of language and concept and intellectualized structure ever pull us away from, privileging not the "absolute inconceivableness" of the absoluteness of givenness but rather the relativity of proud human rationalizing and equation of being. As the delightful poem Bouchee bee will emphasize, there is strength galore in the wonderments of an "unknowing" that involves assent to the mystery of the One. The power of the "metaphysical imaginary" is thus such as to draw one away from the "intimacy--the truth, the beauty--of finiteness," the conceptualization and excarnation the former involves disallowing that other "infinity [at the heart] of the slightest existing [--and of course mortal--] thing." That all-pervading modern and still hypercontemporary melancholia afflicting writers and nonwriters alike comes, Bonnefoy argues, essentially from "loving an image of the world knowing it is but an image." Poetry presents itself as a refusal of melancholia's "ambiguity," as an obstinate "reminder, a designated direction" of a telluric connectedness that "prescribes that we not be dream's idolater, but, neither, that we accept ourself as iconoclast." No destruction, no blind worship. Poetry becomes in this way an act and a place of "moral experience [which] takes it over aesthetic revery" and allows for a "loving critique" of our ways of relating (to) What Is. Two other fine recent poems, Passant, veux-tu savoir? precede de Ales Stenar (Editions VVV, 2006), reveal a manner of relatedness to being plunged into what we may deem the sacred, but one that is nameless, the screeching of seabirds or the ceaseless burning glory of the ordinary--of smile and suffering. What sacredness is there, however, is wrapped in no dreamed alterity, no aestheticized hygiene. It is Poussin's handful of earth, no more, for what more could be truly desired, truly embraced? Pure presence in a language alert to its shimmering temptations, seeking rather that luminous and beaming nudity presence may yet afford.

Michael Bishop

Dalhousie University
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Author:Bishop, Michael
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book review
Date:May 1, 2007
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