Jean-Claude Villain

Jean-Claude Villain

Jean-Claude Villain was born in Mâcon (centre of France) in 1947. His first book was published in 1974. Since this date he published around thirty books. Most of them are poetry, but also chronicles, essays, short novels and theater.

For 40 years he now lives by the Mediterranean Sea (in South France and in Tunisia). Most of his work is closed to the Mediterranean culture and sensitivity, and the archetypes of the ancient mythologies come often in his books. Each new book is for him a new opportunity to explore the wide space of the language. So, he practices several styles: long lyric poems as well as short ones like Japanese hakes. For this reason, and by his subjects, he takes an original place in the French contemporary literature.

In France and abroad, he has contributed to some sixty papers and magazines (Canada, Greece, Israel, Belgium, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, UK, Lithuania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Argentina, Germany, Italy, China) by publishing poems, translations and various articles and pieces of criticism. He has given numerous public readings in France and abroad, and also recitals with musicians. Three essays on his work were published. One followed by an interview, in 2001 Jean-Claude Villain, damier de silence et parole (L’Harmattan Ed., Paris). Another one The forms of love in Jean-Claude Villain work was published in Greece (Press of Thessaloniki University) on 2006, and Les traces de l’exil poétique dans l’œuvre de Jean-Claude Villain (Le Nouveau Recueil Ed., Paris). A special file was published by the Editions Encres Vives in 2003 and a CD in the collection “A poet, a day” in 2002.


time is abolished beneath the besieged walls
and on the immense blue
vessels sail across the enormous space

where odysseys begin
and landmarks fade away


warm islands rich in birds and palms

washed by heavy swells and strengthened by hardships

the men here have dreams of endless continents
and familiar roads

and if the cries heard from the land are more distressing
it is because here
the mourners are virgin


hailed from somewhere else
almond-eyed women
made him feel a king
– wondrous caresses and kisses sweet as milk –

he knew no longer where
home and native land and brothers were
nor weapons nor duty
nor city nor promises

thus he said to stop the water-clock
and in a clear sky
his vacant eyes looked for Orion


and if myths can merge
the times through their signs
they show the permanence of men
which ephebe can still today
lay his angel’s hand upon the nape of a goddess
and tie with patience
threads of gold and flax
to the plait of her hair


they need

white palaces and women’s finest skins
the luxury of pearls
and the softness of silks
the vague airs of lyres
and the hillocks’ strong wine

in order to fulfill

nude and stripped of emblems
virile cravings for swell and for slow caresses
against the docile bellies of nubile priestesses

who in the heat of words and of rhythmic fleshes
unfold their divine moves
and drink deep majesty


she knows her other lineages

the thousands of years
of those who celebrate
the secret ancient mysteries

it matters little that the ancestry is lost
the features of the race remain
the issues are certain
when blows the spirit of the place
and quicken faded memories

her patient fingers run
over the standing stones
in search of worn-off names
that some time in the year
can still be made out
by the brief light of dawn

Editions L’Harmattan, Paris, 1991
© Translated by Jean-Luc TOSI




     and he, a big wild beast love-possessed by summer, retains in his blood a new vigour today, the mettle of a goat, a flow that can wring the loins of all females; with nervous movements, he quickly hoists his body up the top of a steep rock, stretches out his limbs into a compass card and lays open to currents which cross him like a seldom breeze that sometimes filters through the trees and goes to his head; the quivers of the sap shooting up to the new flower buds, he holds for promises of blooming, feasts of fumes, swarming of brood-comb, oily fluids oozing at every pore and split; he slackens his guts tight with pith, loosens constrained muscles he did not even know about, and dances a new walk; he takes in cool and warm smells with the same voracious appetite, sucks in the trickling of rocks and fruits, and finally strokes the smooth shapes of the branches on which he is sitting.
     and he, a big wild beast love-possessed by summer, now feels that the season has changed for him too; he calls on the warm forces of the earth and of the sea, the female forces of the forest; from now on, out of his wanton incantations, will he know how not to be content with tepid dreams alone?


     and he, a big wild beast love-possessed by summer, now fears the dins of the wind and the storm, the red lizard tails streaking the heavens, the blasts racing down the mountains howling like the wild beasts that break through his nightmares; closing his eyes, he can sense that trees will anew be uprooted and animals killed and that thick streams of leaves will be running over the earth; he then slowly swings his body round on his hips, yells to gorge himself on the violence that the skies have broken loose against the earth, or perhaps to imitate it, or to silence it; he is lashed back by the sand that he flings at the swirling wind, dives into the waves that roll on to the beach and shakes off the water from his hair as dry-furred animals do ; however he fears unexpected lava flows, acrid fumes that his nostrils vaguely remember, the fire which can inflame his throat and make him cough up his guts; in the end he cannot but join the hubbub, whistle in vain after the burrowing birds, tear the barriers of creepers as tense as hammocks and face the wind up to the utmost of his breath;
     and he, a big wild beast love-possessed by summer, exhausted, now coils himself up in the tree-trunk he used to hollow out when a child, and snuggled up, only waits for a sudden rise of waters to be carried away beyond the horizon that has always puzzled him.

Editions Unimuse, Belgium, 1993
© Translated by Jean-Luc TOSI

Published with the permission of Jean-Claude Villain