This Desert Now


93 pages
ISBN 0-920717-66-7
DDC C841'.54





Translated by Judith Cowan

Marguerite Andersen is a professor of French studies at the University
of Guelph.


In 1987, Yves Préfontaine’s Le Désert maintenant was published by
Les Йcrits des Forges. A month or two later, Judith Cowan, who knew the
poet from the Trois-Riviиres Poetry Festival, sent him four of his
poems in their English translation and wrote, “I hope that you will
like them. Your handling of words is not easy to imitate in the other
language ... an interesting challenge.”

From then on, they collaborated, and we now have this fine translation
of a series of difficult prose poems, short meditations, and more formal
poems. All spring from existential angst, from the awareness that life
sometimes “is strewn with the shards of [the self] like a trail of
evil ruins.” These are poems about nature, about love, about
friendship—even between the francophone poet and his anglophone
translator, bridging chasms full of grievances old and new. Is
Préfontaine a romantic? In any case, he knows what we must leave behind
and what we must strive for. “Internal gravitation” is what he calls
it; thought; being witness to a troubled century. According to
Préfontaine, that is the primary role of the poet.

This is beautiful poetry, lyrical with sadness and despair, but lyrical
also in its desire for life. It is food for thought, to be consumed
slowly and patiently by readers aware of the urgency of choosing between
darkness and light.


Préfontaine, Yves., “This Desert Now,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 26, 2024,