Thursday, July 22, 2010
The badger and the poet
Thanks to American poet Jennifer Moxley, I've added a word to my vocabulary for what can go on inside and around the process of making poetry. The word, in French, is blaireau, and its literal translation is "badger", which immediately brings to mind that fierce and tenacious creature that lives under hedges and won't let go of something it has in its teeth and claws - which could be useful qualities in literary composition, if not overdone.
But in the usage of the French poet Emmanuel Hocquart, as explained by Moxley in a postscript to her vividly aphoristic Fragments of a Broken Poetics, "badger" has a special and intriguing meaning:
"It is a way to designate those activities in D.I.Y. poetic circles of doing and making things that are not obviously valuable. The name badger" comes from an analogously useless activity: cutting off of all the hairs on a man's shaving brush (traditionally made of badger hair), and then, one by one, gluing them back on. In his book Ma haie [My Hedge], Hocquard has termed this method of poetry and bookmaking "la méthode Robinson" ("the Crusoe method")—that is, an activity, a result, or a concept, all of which look—to any outsider, non-poet type—"ridiculously useless," "private and solitary," and "outrageously speculative and experimental."*
Come to think of it, as I've been bringing together a collection of my own poetry and contemplating fonts and papers and graphic designs, I've had moments of crazy and random delight when the process has felt a little like pulling the hairs off the badger brush and then gluing them back on, though I doubt that this analogy that would have occurred to me spontaneously, outside a dream.
*Jennifer Moxley, "Fragments of a Broken Poetics" Chicago Review Spring 2010