Pierre Joris

Pierre Joris

Pierre Joris has moved between the US, Europe & North Africa for 45 years, publishing over 40 books of poetry, essays and translations. Coming later this fall are Meditations on the Stations of Mansur al-Hallaj (poems) from Chax Press & The University of California Book of North African Literature (vol. 4 in the Poems for the Millennium series), coedited with Habib Tengour from the UCP.

Exile is My Trade: A Habib Tengour Reader edited, introduced & translated by Pierre Joris (Black Widow Press) came out in early 2012 as did Pierre Joris: Cartographies of the In-between, edited by Peter Cockelbergh, with essays on Joris’ work by, among others, Mohamed Bennis, Charles Bernstein, Nicole Brossard, Clayton Eshleman, Allen Fisher, Christine Hume, Robert Kelly, Abdelwahab Meddeb, Jennifer Moxley, Jean Portante, Carrie Noland, Alice Notley, Marjorie Perloff & Nicole Peyrafitte (Litteraria Pragensia, Charles University, Prague, 2011).

Forthcoming in 2013 are Barzakh (Poems 2000-2012) from Black Widow Press, & The Collected Late Poems of Paul Celan, translated & annotated by Pierre Joris, from Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.

Other recent books include The Meridian: Final Version—Drafts—Materials by Paul Celan (Stanford U.P. 2011), Canto Diurno #4: The Tang Extending from the Blade, (poems, 2010), Justifying the Margins: Essays 1990-2006 (Salt Books), Aljibar I & II (poems) & the CD Routes, not Roots (with Munir Beken, oud; Mike Bisio, bass; Ben Chadabe, percussion; Mitch Elrod, guitar; Ta’wil Productions). Further translations include Paul Celan: Selections (UC Press) & Lightduress by Paul Celan which received the 2005 PEN Poetry Translation Award. With Jerome Rothenberg he edited Poems for the Millennium, vol. 1 & 2: The University of California Book of Modern & Postmodern Poetry.

Pierre Joris lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn with his wife, performance artist Nicole Peyrafitte & teaches poetry & poetics at the State University of New York, Albany. Check out his Nomadics Blog.


news in french from jerusalem parse the value of the
gold napoleon in relation to the shekel radio
mediterranean emits in english a flying hospital soon be
put into service in italy carried by regular plane the
voice of america tamil insurrections in sri lanka a
concert of baroque music held in aspen colorado tent
sip çay & codis

this is gümüshlük twirl the buttons
tune in the voices invisible waves surround and pierce
us jack and jean are our hades & not just news from it
condemn the servile policy of european bourgeois
states in front of u.s. aggression fade out from
communist not-yet-state-of-the-art technology who
rules these waves?

radio tirana a message from the
mysterious mediter-ranean tibet weird cousin of god
save the queen imagination does not rule the waves
wiser warsaw radio pologna in french broadcasts

wind came up waves on the beach and in the air
changed poland into an arab pop song world war 3 will
be declared in english a live voice from the bed a french
poet died last week thirty years hard labor transcribing
& selling short wave broadcasts from serbo-croatian &
fifteen other european minority languages

it must be
true I heard it on the shortwave grapevine tonight it is
true for him this narrow page broadcast while the plo
denounces delivery of fifteen fighter planes in geneva it
is always talk there is an energy conference somewhere
else neo-colonialist division of labor and now the
congolese people discuss the new five year plan to
overcome colonialist static

salisbury to be renamed
horava after a chieftain lived there once in estramadura
political observers in latin america the liberation front
concentrating prominent opposition world wide protest
against reagan’s neutron bomb decision this is moscow
speaking from madagascar to greenland via england a
brazilian paper quoted

halicarnassus in eyeshot as
bodrum no memory no plaque I quote de préférence
herodutus who got his news from hearsay so do we all
he added that’s what I was told that’s what I hears it’s
the best I can do with what’s at hand you are the ones
responsible heterogenous elements acquire consistency
and persistence only as they cross thresholds me for my
part I take some I leave some.

wanted to hear herodotus
on the radio but all that was said was you have just
heard vous venez d’entendre usted escutcho evening
news nouvelles du soir nachrichten always after the fact
and detached from the surrounding world closed upon
itself like a hedgehog a furious mullah breaks in loué
soit jésus-christ radio vatican still meddling 2000 years
later but the arab’s discourse had the edge quicker
louder covers the tired jesuit for awhile they run parallel
but the vatican’s frenchman a trained long distance
runner they got experience in that area he comes
through clean through the caesuras of arabic rhetoric
the tortoise and the hare an old race

the future messenger
of good news better kill him then the one who only
tells the truth about the past no matter how bad
sapientia xtiana is theological unity and the problem of
forming missionaries jihad clearer if not cleaner at least
bad news are called just that here the messenger is killed
even before he opens his mouth

in-challah the vatican
has been displaced the arab rhetoric so fierce though no
jihad only radio Jordan listing the names of grateful
listeners who had written in to the station from
somewhere else a nursery rime another station comes
back to haunt us greetings and welcome gentile talks of
Longinus an empress dowager 255-330 AD travelled all
over finds remains of holy cross colchester or turkey
constance married her then discarded her one son
constantine the great her life drowned out by local
music an imported heritage devout and chaste poetry is
dead prose is dying architecture has lapsed into the
horny hands of the engineers barbarians from the east
contest victory of xtianity no counterpoint o wallah

two stations fighting it out yet sterlings
trade interest down two points to roll with the punches
but to keep rocking the boat the moment the sun went
down the wind died too sea breaks at left elbow gold
spangled Aegean at sunset last rays through bleached
forearm hairs shadow thrown by black bakelite box
called radio this white Sarap in the glass is golden too
and comes from Ankara called Çankaya and/or
Kavaklidere the names things are ready to go under
knowledge is not “noise” that occludes the brighter
pattern to be captured in its true essence, nor is it a step
toward something else it is how we arrive and where we

there are no true voices there are only voices jack
its not the angels its only the men who talk and talk and
talk so furchtbar enttäuscht

nicht mehr hier of myself
my wife called cool german drama listen doktor bortele
don’t listen to anyone one can buy the parts to make the
engine in any shop you cannot make your discovery
public noch einmal das feuer miterleben nach den
unruhigen jahren

things flounder under the combined
weight of their polylingual accretions or is that human
failure to see the things they stay what they are where
they are old trees, their names the many leaves die and
fall each year leaving the thing das Ding remains an- fur-
etc. grows new names next spring ot on the next
shortwave bulletin bounced off the ionosphere bent
hereward bends your ear and what would you be in a
discourse of tattoos? A dragon or a brace of first names

dawn a lone black dog a beach a mirror a shaving bowl
empty batteries lead to ricketty three rung ladder leads
to flour sack filled with unknown looks out over the sea
she rises in its back catch you later hours to go a full
frontal two oars anchored off shore small white shiny
black outboard tarpaulin covered net catch chos ten
mile off shore no jewels in the haze on the highest
point of this peninsula rises a watchtower drab military
pecker turkish angst a greek invasion

bronze extremities
clash a white trunk bends washes unwilling goat
separating the one from the other biblical morning how
to keep head above water they come out of the surf
arm armed with a thorough brush gleams waist-deep
fat-eyed voyeur rites of dawn tea with honey short
waves fade out cough table on a terrace blue cap white
jacket part of description included beyond my eyes the
gesture excludes fullness not foam enough for aphrodite
a man on a mule parallels the consequent limit


the star, vertical
pole-axed in flight
as mutably finite
as east & west

over the northern arc
in sleep to wake to think on
“the man of light” a light neither
of the Occident nor of the Orient
a northern light

“et nox illuminatio mea in deliciis meis.”

to lose one’s north & dream
a messenger-self steps before you, stands
north of no one’s future

(and the Maya, subtropically
knew no such pole, only
four directions a plane horizon
kept spinning dizzy
unanchored cosmology of space
anchored in hysteric calendric straightjacket
nailed to earth by human sacrifice)

up the celestial pole
through the ten-
towered desert gate your

northern shaman clambered
east & west spin
cling tight enjoy
street lighting below
sheet lightning ahead aurora borealis
the darkness at noon stammers in triplicate
for the length of a


to create an
ʻâlam al-mithâl
a mundus imaginalis
that holds
your needs
you need the horizonal
and the vertical.
nafs-i-kull, Universal Soul
by the letter

works on the bodies
by mediation of the soul.

“From the Universal Intellect the Divine Order, that is, ‘Be!’ has come into
existence. The Universal Soul is also called the Well-preserved Tablet; that is
the first thing created, which was existentialized through the Universal Intellect.”


in the Maghreb,


East from where I live
by itself the most Western part,

crepusculum vespertium
crepusculum matutinem

hazy sun over Lamarsa
calm clapotis of the mediterranean
cold tea, apricots & short wave radio
6 eyes to do the doing:
Jacques Berque on Imruʼl Qais.

Come friend, see the lightning?
Two quick hands slashing thick cloud fog
that glimmer, or a hermit’s lamp when oil ʻs
poured on the tressed wick…

Clear summer skies
the only lightning this
morning in the book
the spark of translation arcs
between the poles of languages,
hesitant instant, zigzag, throwing
light on light.


towards a nomadic translation, then, what I was brought here to talk about.

Was transported here, to make sense of, a north making east into west and west
into east, fear
the loss of discrimination. Start with RD:

“We are initially translators then; and in coming into our native speech learn that
language as we translate our selves into language. We did then come from an other
world, for sure. And the problems of translation are not secondary to our being

Poetry in this post: © Pierre Joris
Published with the permission of Pierre Joris