graffites ou le rasoir d'Occam.
Pierre DesRuisseaux is a distinguished poet who has been publishing volumes of poetry on a regular basis for two decades, one of which, Moneme, won the Canadian Governor General's Prize for poetry in 1989. DesRuisseaux is known for short, compact poems with strikingly original, and sometimes dense, imagery. These characteristics are to be found in his latest collection, graffites ou le rasoir d'Occam, which contains fifty-eight mostly untitled poems that modulate themes of solitude, isolation, and exile as well as the dialectic between contrasting entities (night/light; sound/silence). Subtly present is the theme of death, which language, by recapturing the past, is forever attempting to defy. There is an intensely personal quality to this verse, although an occasional political note can sometimes be found, as in the poem on the Royal 22nd Regiment.
The paradoxical nature of the collection is embedded in the contradictory semes of its title. Occam's Razor refers to the philosophical principle of economy by which William of Ockham rejected what he saw as unnecessary assumptions or unwarranted influences in argumentation. For Ockham, who was interested in bringing both simplicity and sharpness to a debate, plurality ought not be posited without necessity. The sense of timelessness and the direct perception of things that the reader experiences in this collection might be said to be tending in such a direction. Yet the poet's inquiry at a deeper level is sometimes interrupted by contemporary allusions and realia (the Internet, the World Wide Web, a peep show, a motel, Coca-Cola, Alberto Fujimori), reminding us that no reflection, however lofty, is immune from the vagaries of everyday life. Hence the other part of the title, graffites, recalling graffiti, the kind of uncontrolled, spontaneous, undisciplined expression that is emblematic of mundane reality's ability to remind us of itself whenever we wander too far from it.
DesRuisseaux is capable of striking and insightful images, of which "chaque aurore / met des virgules h l'eternite" is one example. Yet sometimes the unusual groupings of words are overworked and overdrawn, or the conjunction of images too facile, giving the impression they were formed for their own sake rather than to provide a fresh perspective. DesRuisseaux seems to be conferring an ontological status on words, one that is detected in his overuse of the word mot, a practice noted in his collection Noms composes (1995), for which he was criticized. We know that understanding modern poetry begins with an appreciation of Mallarme's famous remark to Degas that poetry is not made of ideas but of words. But repeating the word mot frequently -- it appears in nearly a quarter of the poems -- would seem to confer on words not the primacy they deserve, but rather an ontological priority that they do not.
Emile J. Talbot University of Illinois, Urbana