No poet has looked more determinedly or more ferociously at things than Francis Ponge. —Peter Sirr
Ponge forfeits no resource of language, natural or unnatural. He positively dines upon the etymological root, seasoning it with fantastic gaiety and invention. —James Merrill
Francis Ponge’s prose accepts the truth that things themselves defy our language. The writing accepts this, but is not resigned to it: in Ponge, the presence of trees, ‘the slow production of wood,’ senility itself, bespeak a blazing conflagration that has not happened, which is to say that in Ponge, Being holds out against its every nemesis, and both Being and Non-Being offer themselves to our dream of silence. Ponge is the great poet of our being with things. —Leonard Schwartz
Ponge wrote like a scientist whose language is poetry. He was endlessly inquisitive about his subjects--including the wasp, birds, the carnation, "The Pleasure of the Pine Woods"—but what we end up learning is how the mind animates the world. —American Poet Journal
About the Author
Born in 1899, Francis Ponge studied both law and philosophy before taking up a variety of editorial and teaching jobs. Le parti pris des choses, published by Gallimard in 1942, caught the attention of writers and artists. Wide recognition came in the sixties when Gallimard published several large collections of his poetry and essays. Ponge avoided appeals to emotion and symbolism, and instead sought to minutely recreate the world of experience of everyday objects with playful neologisms and his own phenome- nological ballet. He described his poetry as "a description-definition-literary artwork" that avoided both the drabness of a dictionary and the inadequacy of poetry. He died in 1989. Lee Fahnestock is a translator and critic. Long an admirer of Ponge, she has published translations of Vegetation, The Nature of Things, and The Making of Pre. Her translation, with Norman MacAfee, of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables and her translations of Jean-Paul Sartre’s letters to Simone de Beauvoir have been widely celebrated.