Blue Ashes: Selected Poems, 1982-1998


142 pages
ISBN 1-55071-093-1
DDC C841'.54





Translated by Daniel Sloate
Reviewed by Ian C. Nelson

Ian C. Nelson is the former Assistant Director of Libraries (Collection
Management & Budget) at the University of Saskatchewan and Dramaturge
for the Festival de la Dramaturgie des Prairies.


The title piece and central poem of this anthology received the Governor
General’s Award for poetry in French in 1990. It is also rather a
succиs de scandale because it deals with a “true story/Unacceptable
unforgettable,” that of a relationship between a 20-year-old man and a
6Ѕ-year-old boy (the ages are echoed again and again in the lines). The
poet poses the question, “Is there a hell for children / Who liked to
sin / Who learned words / They knew they shouldn’t know”? He answers
his question in the poem’s startling conclusion.

Daoust is a master at involving his readers in the intimacy of his
reflective moments, desires, and sexuality. In “The Sleeping Angel,”
he achieves this with a sudden switch from the third to the second
person. On the heels of Black Diva, an earlier anthology also prepared
and translated into English by Daniel Sloate, Blue Ashes (1991) all but
completes the view of Daoust’s poetic opus. The choice of pieces is
excellent, displaying the full panoply of the poet’s voice and talent.
Note, for example, the contrasting short set of New York poems of
circumstance dedicated to various friends with the long interior
reflection of the already cited title poem.

A self-declared “dandy,” Daoust may easily be likened in his
exuberance and unbridled talent to Rimbaud. Sloate, his translator, is
himself a poet and playwright, as well as a professor in the Linguistics
Department at the Université de Montréal and Director of the
Translation Program at McGill. This anthology is a happy marriage of
their two talents.


Daoust, Jean-Paul., “Blue Ashes: Selected Poems, 1982-1998,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 18, 2024,