The Poet of Poet Laval
writes prescriptions for sleep, listing
sonorous ingredients whose names
you only have to read before slipping
into a deep canyon descended
by way of rustling poplars, the humming
of bees in oceans of deep-colored lavender, the slap
of the waves of those oceans, and there at the bottom,
dream’s diagonal door of light and shadow, the one
you never are aware of passing through.
The poet of Poet Laval
is a useful poet, writes poems
that seed the heart you thought non-arable:
soon, stirrings, presentiments of
the wild and bright; red poppies.
The poet of Poet Laval
does not exist. Poet Laval is a village, very old,
in the north of Provence. Touched by the thought
of a village named after a poet,
I visited Poet Laval and asked after him:
who had he been, and where could I read his poems?
These questions made everyone laugh, until
a kind woman took me aside. “It’s like this”, she said,
“in Provençal, ‘poet’ means ‘mountain’”! So,
no famous writer of poems ever lived here, no favorite
son who went to Paris and became renowned,
no local troubadour, whose song about a woman’s eyes
—though she’s been under ground nine hundred years—is still
remembered. Not even one beloved in his time
for his lyrics celebrating big events: the spectacular
grape harvest, the long-delayed completion of the church,
the late birth to the lonely, childless couple.
And so I conjure a poet for this town.
In her poems—no matter what the words describe—
a window opens up: through it, the evening sky
of a summer long ago, its first stars
through the branches, the rhyming
white blossoms, whose breathed-in scent brings back
the sense that anything is possible.
All of it given back. Everything restored.
Just for the moment of reading, of course,
but the spaciousness lingers inside.
From The Poet of Poet Laval
by Carolyn L. Tipton
Published by Salmon in 2019
Copyright © Carolyn L. Tipton, 2019
MORE ABOUT CAROLYN L. TIPTON
Carolyn L. Tipton, born and raised in Berkeley, California, is a poet, translator, and teacher. She has a Master’s Degree in English/Creative Writing from Stanford University and a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley, where she currently teaches in the Fall Program for Freshmen. She has published many poems and translations both in various journals, including Partisan Review and Two Lines, and in anthologies, including Norton’s World Poetry: An Anthology of Verse from Antiquity to Our Time, and Robert Hass’ Now and Then: The Poet’s Choice Columns, 1997-2000. She has been the recipient of various grants and awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has also been awarded writing residencies at The Banff Centre and the Vermont Studio Center. She has given readings of her poems and translations in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and Spain. Her first book of translations of the poetry of Alberti, To Painting: Poems by Rafael Alberti (Northwestern University Press), won the National Translation Award. Her second, Returnings: Poems of Love and Distance (White Pine Press) won the Cliff Becker Translation Prize.
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