Hanging On In There: An Essay in Meaning (Selected Poems)
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By Marie Noël | Presented and translated by Pauline Matarasso
Midway through her poignant “Office for a Dead Child,” Marie Noël makes a ready admission of the limitations of language in the pursuit of meaning: “The words come readily to mind, / The meaning though is hard to find.” Yet, for this seemingly ordinary French woman, words were of paramount importance. They were the receptacle in which could be safely stored the “meaning God entrusted to me, for whom, when or where, I have no idea. Someone will find it one day or another. Someone or no one, it doesn’t matter.”
Hanging On In There finds that meaning, thanks to the resounding success of Pauline Matarasso’s translations. As Bishop Erik Varden notes in his Foreword, this achievement testifies to Matarasso’s “gift and austere discipline of poetry.” To the fifty-one poems in the volume, Matarasso has added an extensive, connatural introductory essay to Marie Noël and a section of her own commentary interwoven with Marie Noël’s prose. The result is an engrossing, unified composition that beholds the “cloudy underside of truth, which is meaning.”
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Marie Noël (1883–1967), the nom de plume of Marie-Mélanie Rouget, was a French Catholic poet and mystic. Winner of the Grand prix de poésie de l’Académie française in 1962, she was also named an officer in the Légion d’honneur. In 2017, Marie Noël’s cause for canonization as a saint in the Catholic Church was officially opened.
Pauline Matarasso, as a writer and scholar, has translated from both French and Latin. Her work, which includes three Penguin Classics, has been published in England, France, and the United States. A poet herself, she also has a lifelong connection with the Morvan, the region just south of Auxerre so dear to Marie Noël.
Paperback & E-book: 284pp.
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