Denise Desautels | Under the darkness, the immense desire to live

Despite the richness of our poetry, Denise Desautels recently became the second Quebecois, only! – To enter the prestigious Gallimard Poetry collection, after Gaston Miron in 1999. She thus joins Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Dante, Shakespeare and Dickinson. Meeting with a great living woman, for whom “art offers a utopia without hope of eternity”.

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Press

For a long time, Denise Desautels was wise. Too wise “It took me a while to become a rebel,” she confesses, dressed all in black but eyes still bright, in the warm library-living room of her Montreal home. “It took me a long time to want to face the monsters that inhabited me, to burst this bomb that was in me. I even paid attention to what I read, because I felt that books could put me in front of what I didn’t want to see. I got the impression that if I went that way, I would have to open everything. »

Née sur le Plateau Mont-Royal during this period of Québécois history that the appelle la Grande Noirceur, the poet lost are perse alors qu’elle na que 5 ans, une blessure originalelle qu’elle fouillait en 1998 dans the story East fawn happiness, and that it will remain as a cloud over all his work. A wound caused by her absence, of course, but above all by that feeling of suffocation with which she will have to live in the heart of a home run by a devoted mother, who deified the memory of her late husband. . Denise Desautels is, just out of adolescence, a young woman who obeys what others expect of her, never what screams inside her.

A marriage first allows him to finally breathe, a little, but it is his encounter with Quebec poetry, when he returns to studies for a master’s degree – in particular the poetry of Nicole Brossard, Madeleine Gagnon and France Théoret – who tipped him off she forever on the side of his freedom. If the word “accompaniment” appears so frequently in her work of more than thirty of her books, it is because several of them dialogue with the work of those who have shown her the path to her emancipation.

It was the others who gave me the audacity that I did not have. Someone had to tell me: “Go ahead, push, push.” And that is still what I expect from works of art today: that they come to create small clicks inside, to open gaps.

Denise Desautels

great lucidity

“Because secrets, often furtive and unspeakable, need light, that is thought, language and voice, in order not to fester”, writes Denise Desautels in the presentation of her collection. The dark angle of joy. (2011), now reunited with From which sometimes an arm emerges from the horizon (2017) in the Poésie de Gallimard collection, which since 1966 has housed important works from all over the planet.

Contacted by phone, the director of the pocket collection, Jean-Pierre Siméon, explains that it was important for him to admit to this pantheon not only a figure of Quebec poetry, but also a living female figure, “to mark the liveliness of the present”. Québec poetry and because Québec poetry has been magnificently enlivened, for decades, by women’s writing”.

And why Denise Desautels? “Because she is indisputable. Because I consider her writing very strong, very original, very constant. Her language is immediately recognizable, and for me it is the mark of a poetry that she tells. There is a requirement in her writing, a very human universe and, at the same time, of great rigor, of great lucidity. »

bruised head

Sculpted in a language full of convulsions, forced breaths, murmurs and screams, Denise Desautels’s writing cannot be described as intimate writing, as was the case with many feminine works that emerged in the 1980s, if we hasten to add that this personal question that she kneads often becomes a metaphor for the pains and torments of the time.

The writer, now 77, remembers being confused by Van Gogh’s self-portraits, seen in the late 1950s and 1960s, in an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts. She was about 15 years old. “This disfigurement of oneself, this pain embodied in the self-portraits made me feel that something inside me could open up. Her work would therefore be only an autobiography, or a self-portrait, in the sense that the violent shocks of her inner world are also those of the outer world.


PHOTO ROBERT SKINNER, THE PRESS

Denise Desautels

The starting point of my writing is my bruised head. But I quickly realized that I wasn’t the only one with a bruised head. The world is a big bruised head. This wound in me, I cannot deny it, but it is this wound that allows me to better understand other wounds.

Denise Desautels

Not quite black and not quite white

“We can see it: this poetic universe is neither perfectly black nor perfectly white, but rather takes shape in halftones”, emphasizes Denise Desautels’ great friend Louise Dupré, in the prologue to this new paperback edition. “The poet does not seek to resolve the oppositions, but rather puts them side by side, lets them confront each other showing that there is no possible resolution, no redemption, despite islands of appeasement, serenity, restless joy. »

Desperate, then, Denise Desautels? Not quite. If her joy can only be tinged with melancholy, the light hidden by art, friendship and love keeps her work on the side of life. The mere existence of her books testifies to this struggle that the poet continues to carry out in the face of everything that makes her want to abdicate.

” [L]The trees hardly exist today,” he writes, but they continue to exist, that is undoubtedly the main thing. “Perhaps we always write what we miss the most. I would have liked to be inhabited, naturally, by a kind of power that we would call joy. But I try to bring out the darkness, telling myself that beyond the darkness, there are little clearings. I cling to this idea that the gesture of writing is a gesture of great experience, which opens spaces for renewal. If we start it, it is because we feel internally inhabited by an immense desire to live. »

The dark angle of joy followed by Where an arm emerges from the horizon

The black angle of joy followed by From where an arm of the horizon arises

Gallimard

304 pages

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