Friday, December 12, 2008
Reader's Diary #422- Herménégilde Chiasson: Beatitudes (translated by Jo-Anne Elder)
As I began Herménégilde Chiasson's Beatitudes, I very quickly decided that it was not a book I'd recommend to just anyone, not even among the poetry-minded folk. With 118 pages of lines that almost always begin with "those who," it runs the risk of becoming tedious. Plus it ends with a comma which might alienate those who require more of a resolution.
Surprisingly however, Chiasson pulled it off. When I really thought about it, what he'd done seemed so cleverly simple I was surprised more hadn't tried it. By beginning each line with "those who," I began to think about the people in Chiasson's life. Was he simply cataloguing all the people he knew?
"those who laugh emphatically and with bravado in public places to show that everything is going well, that things are definitely better, that they now have been released from the inconsolable grief that seemed to have locked them away forever,"
Then I started to think about people I know...
"those who kneel beside your chair to put themselves at eye level,"
And finally, I started to think about myself...
"those who pick out fruit, poking it to see if it is firm enough, and serve it to those for whom they have affection,"
Beatitudes quite obviously forces a reader to consider himself and those around him and to strike a harmony between the everyday and specific with the lifetime and profound. It tends to be depressing line by line, but as an entire text it's strangely uplifting, connecting us and placing our existence. If this sounds like a bit more existentialism than you can handle, I assure you the fault is mine: Chiasson grounds it all with concrete examples.
Beatitudes was published by Goose Lane Books, 2007 and short-listed for a GG.
Taking a lighthearted approach at his style, here's my Christmas Beatitudes, inspired by Chiasson...
those who hang candy canes from the branches of their trees,
those who pay to have their presents wrapped,
those who plan to use their leftovers for turkey sandwiches to give to the homeless but never do,
those who add rum to their egg nog because that's the way it's meant to be,
those who cringe at "Twelve Days of Christmas" spoofs,
those who are filled with peace upon hearing "Silent Night" though they are non-believers,
those who wish carolers still caroled,
those who sleep better under the glow of multicoloured lights,
those who feel guilt pretending to be Santa Claus,
those who never tire of claymation TV specials,
those who remember kissing under plastic mistletoe,