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… Had checked the regional library’s online catalog for any volumes of Stéphane Mallarmé's poetry and come up with one result. I had previously read references to his acclaimed 1897 piece, “Un Coup des Dés,” but never viewed a translation, and here it was, available to me — jotted down its call number (841.8 BLOCH, 2017) on a small memo pad that’s primarily for supermarket needs.

Howard Bloch’s book is commendable, by the way. Not only does it present the French text of the poem spread wide across the pages, properly replicating its original publication (Bloch asserts it was the first poem published in this sort of format), but J.D. McClatchy's translation into English in a similar format as well, along with Bloch’s extensive, contextual commentary. While I was extracting it from the shelf on the day I had reached the library, I noticed another item of interest on an adjacent shelf in the next tier of shelves, which I hadn’t heard or read about previously — The Collected Poems of Samuel Beckett, (2012).

Grabbing it, Who knew Beckett had composed and published enough poems to bother collecting? Headed down to the checkout counter, … Gotta peruse that one.

At home in a rural cabin I decided to read Bloch’s interpretive work concerning "One Toss of the Dice" before tackling the Beckett verses. Toward the end of Bloch’s dissective analysis he states that Rimbaud influenced Mallarmé, and Mallarmé influenced Apollinaire.

Le Bateau Ivre” (1871) ⇾ “Un Coup des Dés” (1897) ⇾ “Zone” (1912)

While Bloch prepared to explain how these three seminal poems were premised on a dubious concept of the simultaneity of Time, I realized that from an alternative angle of approach each fit into a genre which could be labelled ‘Dream as Poetry’.

I have some experience with the use of dream imagery in creative writing. In 1970 I had started transferring a few dreams at dawn into Kerouac-inspired stream of consciousness prose, full of dashes and ellipses (while I was filling spiral notebooks in practice to become a writer). After the Millenium, I began incorporating some vividly dreamed activities & images into poems. “Dreaming a Discarded Painting” (2006) and “The Blue Key Skinflint Holds” (2011) are two that developed particularly well. Another, which begins experiencing a process of alphabetizing old friends’ surnames in a dream, ends in lines 17-18 with a subsequent, awakened image: six crimson amaryllis blooms / were leaning forward like fast friends. This piece titled “Recollecting the Names” was published by Toni Partington here: http://printedmattervancouver.com/2012/06/19/ghost-town-poets-present-their-work-st-johns-booksellers/.

Incidentally, Bloch’s book has informed me that Mallarmé translated Rimbaud’s “Le Bateau Ivre” into English (‘tho I haven’t seen that version); as did Beckett, and his translation is a tad more incisive than the Fowlie 1966 version I have on my personal French literature shelves.

Ensuite (next), I tried to read Beckett’s translation of Apollinaire’s “Zone.” Imagine my dismay upon discovering that the pages allotted for “Zone” were missing from the Beckett volume! There were no stubble remains, as there would be, had someone cut the pages from the binding using box cutters or scissors. Actually, with the binding spine tight and undamaged, and 32 consecutive pages missing, I could only conclude that an entire bundle (pages 141-172) had been omitted somehow on the book binding production line. I did not find them, out of order, elsewhere in the Beckett volume. In all my reading through the years I’ve not encountered a mistake of this sort, until now.


References

Apollinaire, Guillaume. (1920). “Zone” pages 7-15 in Alcools. Paris: Gallimard. https://archive.org/details/alcoolspomes1800apol/page/n5.

Beckett, Samuel. (2012). Collected poems, ed. by Séan Lawler & John Pilling with commentary notes. New York: Grove Press.

Bloch, R. Howard. (2017). One toss of the dice: … how a poem made us modern. New York: Liveright/Norton.

Kerouac, Jack. (1961). Book of dreams. San Francisco: City Lights Books.

Rimbaud, Arthur. (1966). Complete works, selected letters (tr. from Fr. by Wallace Fowlie). Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, pgs. 114-120 for “Le Bateau Ivre.”