A modest man, a tender man.
who witnessed two large wars, one in childhood, one in exile
After a long search, not for métier, but for meaning,
a poet, a painter, a traveler, and then a sage
who walked, daily, anonymously,
through Les Champs de Mars.
(La Volonté , Mort de l'art)
"Volition, the death of art"
Living in Paris, a 'clandestine,'
quasi oriental but respectful, with great respect
for Ruysbroeck, L'Admirable and L'Angèle de Folman,
for Lautréamont, Les Chants de Maldoror
& for Milarepa, The Hundred Thousand Songs...
"La Terre n'est pas ronde, pas encore. Non, il faut la faire ronde"
"The world is not yet round, No, not yet ,we must make it
A man who chose
imagination & exile
but who gave access
to those bound by 'materiality,' 'home or homeland'
"Dans quelques cents ans, J'ai confiance, le monde sera large Enfin
on communiquera avec lec animaux, on leur parlera."
In a hundred years, or so, I am sure, the world will be large.
Finally, one will communicate with animals,
one will speak to them:
When asked, in an interview, what poets he read
"Je lis surtoute ces textes archaiques,de peuple étrangères ou la poesie
n'est pas mise a part, elle vient a l'improvise,
on ne sait comment."
I read , above all, those archaic texts of foreign peoples
for whom poetry is not something isolated,
it comes spontaneously,
one doesn't know how.
in his work as painter & poet,
sought, above all, the Non Dual.
For those fortunate enough to know him as he approached
his eightieth year, there is no doubt that he found his entrance
to this privileged realm.
A modest man, a tender man & a friend.
In truth, when I say:
"Great and strong,
Such is death."
"What is living?
Who made more of it?" Death, it is I.
In truth, when I say:
"Don't put parents in your play,
There is no place for them,
And the woman who gave birth was just at
the end of her strength,
Don't ask any more of her,
Don't make so many scenes,
Unhappiness is altogether natural."
In truth, I am the good road that turns back no one.
I am the good dagger that makes two wherever
It is I who...
It is the others who do not....
Circulating in my wretched body, I came
to a region where the parts of myself were truly
rare and where to live it was necessary to be a
saint. But I, who had formerly aspired to saintliness
now that the sickness had backed me into
it, I resisted and I still resist and it is evident
that, like this, I will not live.
I would have had the possibility, yes! But
to be backed into it, that is unbearable to me.
Mes Proprietés, 1929
They didn't come to laugh or to cry
The didn't come at first any farther
than the river,
come in two's or in three's
They didn't come as one had said,
They came without protection, without re-
flection and without madness,
They came without imploring, without
They came without asking pardon, without
parents and without supplies,
Until now they haven't worked.
And so, one will be tamed by those more
forsaken than oneself,
One will be conquered, sleep nude on beds pre-
pared by the conqueror.
One will swallow one's share in pleasure or in
And many will salute the revelation, grind-
ing their teeth
And without wanting to accept themselves.
Love! Love! Once more your name applied totally
La Nuit Remue, 1935
ON THE STREET OF DEATH
On the street of death,
My mother met a great iceberg,
She wanted to speak,
It was already late,
A great cotton iceberg.
She looked at us my brother and I
And then she cried.
We told her—a truly absurd
that we understood.
And then she smiled the very gracious smile
of a young girl,
That was truly herself,
Such a lovely smile almost coy,
And after she was taken into the Opaque.
Lointain Intérier, 1938
THE MASTER OF HO
I heard the crowd of the whipped speaking with pride.
says the Master of Ho. And I did not laugh.
New laws have been prepared. New laws accumulate,
says the Master of Ho. But it is still the edict of the old dwarf,
scattered leaves of an already uprooted tree.
Calm, says the Master.
Calm and worry. These are the peregrinations of the
hind and the panther until finally they meet. O moment! O
extraordinary moment! And everything becomes so simple,
Calm, says the Master of Ho.
I am writing to you from a country that was formerly light. I write to you from a country of cloak and shadow. For years we live, we live in the tower of a flag broken by wind. Oh! Summer! Poisoned summer! And ever since it is always the same day, the day of encrusted memory.
The ensnared fish thinks as much as he can of water. As much as he can, isn't it natural? At the top of a mountain slope one receives a pike-blow. It is then
that a whole life changes. One instant breaks down the door to the temple.
We consult each other. We no longer know. Neither one nor the other knows anymore. That one is confused. All are distraught. Calm is no more. Wisdom does not outlast inspiration. Tell me, who having received three arrows in the cheek will present himself in a flippant
Death takes some. Prison, exile, famine, misery take the others. Great swords of cold crossed us, then the abject and the sly crossed us.
Who, on our soil, still receives the kiss of joy in the depth of his heart?
The union of myself and wine is a poem. The union of myself and a woman is a poem. The union of the sky and the earth is a poem. But the poem which we have heard has paralyzed our minds...
Our song in the great suffering could not be sung. Art has the mark of arrested jade. The clouds pass, clouds with the contours of rocks, clouds with the contours of sins, and we, like the clouds, we pass, padded with the vain powers of grief.
One no longer likes the day. It shrieks. One no longer likes the night, haunted with worry. A thousand voices in order to deceive. No voice on which to lean. Our skin is tired of our pale face.
The event is great. Night is also great, but what can it do? A thousand stars do not light a single bed. Those who knew no longer know. They leap with the train, the roll with the wheel.
"To live in one's own skin". Don't even think of it. The solitary house does not exist on the island of Parrots. In the fall, the villainess revealed herself. Pure is not pure. It shows its abstinence, its spite. Some manifest in squeaks. Others manifest in escape. Dignity does not manifest.
Ardor in secret, farewell to truth. The silence of the pavement, the cry of the stabbed, the harmony of frozen repose and feelings which burn was our harmony. The path of the perplexed dog, our path.
We have not recognized ourselves in the silence, we have not recognized ourselves in the screams, nor in our caves nor in the gestures of strangers. All around us the country is indifferent and the sky without purpose.
We have seen ourselves in the mirror of death. We have seen ourselves in the mirror of the outraged seal, of flowing blood, of decapitated rapture, in the charred mirror of insult.
We have returned to the gloucous streams.
THE LETTER SPEAKS AGAIN...
...I write to you from the City of Interrupted Time. The slow catastrophe does not end. Our life continues, our life thins out and we still wait for
"the moment that will pass over the wall."
The old dispute unites brother to brother. Everyone enclosed in the pregnancy of cold. Those who possess possess without anymore possessing. Each poor in himself, not even occupying his own bed .Worry occupies him.
Disorder is everywhere. The ears are for the unification of the universe. The arms are to fall down on and lethargy is to let things pass.
Iron is no longer heavy. It meets with itself in the high atmosphere, solid, quick, made for evil. But thought is heavy. It has never been so heavy.
The proverb lied "No one is wounded two times from the same arrow." How? Not two times. Two thousand times two times and it still wounds, all sharp. Beneath thought, never extinguished, the forehead burns. The balm of forgetfulness could not be prepared.
Those who speak inflate their voices. They also inflate truth. The pack rushes to a broad country. A pack asks only to chase, but who asks to be hunted. The pack with its great barking spreads out...
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I write to you from the country of the atrocity, I write to you from the Capital of the sleeping crowd. One lives indifferently in the horror. One calls for the end and the leveling comes...Noble forms no longer show themselves. One sees the necks bent down to kiss. Peace is ashamed.
Know this as well: We no longer have our words. They have withdrawn. In truth, they live, they wander among us. THE FACE WITH THE LOST MOUTH.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sometimes, in a great clutter, our houses, with floors of dust, flow into the streets. The officials on the course of death remain without numbers.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
I am ceasing to write to you. No, don't send anyone to prepare the festivities. No, it is not yet time.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
We remained seated on the margin of the abandoned well. Everything had the color of scrap iron and of beams smoking and the color of profound fatigue.
Triangles of rigid birds cover the sky with a great sound.
Despair like the rain and for how long will it fall?
Old, small, vain, wanting to rule, allowing to kill, content to defeat, holding a doll.
Time passed, evasive response, the years bound between the fingers of traitors.
We looked at each other in silence. We looked at each other with the precocious seriousness of children of the blind...
Épreuves, Exorcismes, 1940–1944
Peace in the nerves of a sick heart
Steady peace ripens its law
Sucked into life
To a nebulous life, to life...
And heavy the chariot, heavy, heavy.
Send wind to them.
The warm wind of delicate branches,
The warm wind of sovereign deserts.
your corollas of anguish.
from TO ACT, I AM COMING
Pushing the door in you open, I entered
To act, I am coming
I am there
I support you
You are no longer abandoned
You are on longer in difficulty
Unraveled threads, your difficulties unwind
The nightmare from which you returned exhausted exists no more
Shoulder to shoulder
You step with me
Your foot on the first step of the infinite stairway
That carries you
That raises you
That fulfills you
I calm you
I spread cloths of peace within you
I am kind to the child of your dream
Flow in psalms on the circle of the frightened one's images
Flow on the snows of her paleness,
Flow on her hearth...and the fire revives itself.
On the lines set without purpose
on paper, on the pages of lines.
Ennobled by a trace of ink, a fine line, a line, where
nothing else could smell
Not to explain, not to expose, not in terraces, not
Rather, as in the world there are anfractuosities,
sinuosities, as there are wandering dogs
a line, a line, more or less a line...
in fragments, in beginnings, quickly drawn, a line,
Young firs in the new water of a sensation which appears,
speaks, laughs, raves or which already in moments, stabs
Escaped from prisons received as inheritance, come
not to define, but to un-define, to rake-up, to play truant
again, lines, from here, from there, lines,
Falling zigzagging, plunging to dream, to distraction,
to multiplication...in desires which stretch-out, which release
Fragments without escort, the real de-mined,
Mouse of the memory indefinitely profiling itself
on the horizon of the page
or else light traces of an uncertain future
Of no language, the writings
Without loyalty without affiliation
Lines, only lines.
To Kim Chi
Filled with the power of the senses
with the plenitude of refusal, of retreat
the erect serpent traversed with sounds
simultaneously inside and outside the four cardinal points
in the Infinite
Universal self at all points conjoined
Allied, to the underground, the dark
there where the force of the shadow darkens with rage
mouth to mouth the noble and the ignoble
at the center of axial space
apart from the tormentors
Descent into privileged territory
Eliminated the actual, the accidental
the dust of the existential
eliminated the attachment
blind to alterity*
invested with grandeur
invested with the immaterial
with the suspicious indefinite of abstruse powers
Force without face,
Matrix of forms and rampart against the forms
In the space a faceless eye contemplates
with an inalterable look,
without flagging, without flirtation
Recall to order
Call to the return
Call to annihilate
Consciousness, the surpassed consciousness
consciousness like an invasion of lavas
Insignificant, a thousand times significant
without emotion, without accent
that nothing distinguishes
the slender triangles, peak below
traverse similar triangles, peak above
revealing to the initiate their murmuring secret.
Isolated, a few colors, apart
speak and do not speak of
the powers of the qualities
Spots, rays, here, there
speak of beginnings, of commitments
at a great distance stellar perhaps
Support of the meditating
at the center a point
only a point
responding to the need
to the need of needs
to the need of the essence
of the essence of the essences
at the center a point
recalls, without deception.
Hub of arrivals
Compass the winds of the Spirit
Circles of the omnipresent conjunction male-female
Labyrinth where the imperious shafts from
the alphabet of the gods
Principle without speech
Principle of all principle
Return to the principle
reverberating at a level above
always on the vibration of the Unique
attuned to all in depth
in intimate union
in efforts to still more broadly embrace
The cloud of being condenses
Cosmos of the Universe of the "self"
In the space a faceless eye contemplates
with an inalterable look
without flagging, without flirtation,
Fat, heavy, peasant, her materiality
but a thread binds her
a thread through the strange to the unlimited binds her
thread of recall
where the void itself is tied
where the totality is tied
where time and undivided space is tied
and the original Egg floating on the waves of
the formless is tied
Where the creation and the dissolution
and the inferiority is tied
and the diamond of its own meditation
Knowledge. (participating knowledge.)
Immensifying illumination where all with all
enters into contemplated resonance
Above geometries, geometry,
lines, like slow-motion radiations,
charged with the occult
Design for the return of the absolute
*(from Ruysbroek "l'alterité" meaning 'the other') .
SHADOWS FOR ETERNITY
The opiate that stops the pain of the entrails/
also stops time/ elongates the hours/
raises the tower/ and summons the
completed centuries/ returning the city
to Temples and to Gods/
He who is shadowed by the malaise of the time/
to whom his century has brought shade/ has
had to more than another/ experience again
the importance of the shadow/ and decide, in
turn, to cast a shadow/ but multiple/ but
ineffaceable/ which would not attenuate/ would not
thin out/would not pass/ shadow forever/
There where the desires for emulation are definitively
extinguished/ in the majestic places/ destined
for the unfolding of memorable episodes from the
lives of heroes/ and extraordinary men/ on broad
empty squares/ uninhabited except for some very
white statues/ the shadow took its place/
Like a painful recollection/ like a reprimand/ like
launches on the sand/ like old men from whom one
cannot escape/ irregular/ severe/ affected with
the same inhuman serenity/ that departs from the
mouth of a canon/
Similar to exile/ to the return at once feared and
desired/ to an occult surveillance/ to destiny
and to obstacles that present themselves to destiny/
similar to the melancholy that sees the future
Similar to fatality
Similar to the depths of memory and resentment/ to
secret claims/ to desires for hyperbole, affirmations/
Similar to the profound resonance of a sentence in
a foreign language/ heard one evening by an inspired
Similar to the uncertain peace of he/ who intends to
accept only grandeur and major importance from life/
Similar to paranoia/
Similar to meteors which remain immobile/ the shadows
the giant/ pressing shadows
In the city of blind palaces/ isolated/ imperative/
interminable chimneys/ like Babylonian names/
bleak/ excessive chimneys/
Oblique/ their long shadow/ crossing streets without
people/ in deserted space/
so an insane jetty draws near/
Some of these translations have appeared previously in
Bananas, City Lights Review and
Vers La Complétude
was published in a limited edition of 85 copies,
by Le Tirlemont, Amsterdam.
The translator thanks the editors of these editions.
She also thanks Claudio Rugafiori, friend & translator of the author
& the author himself for generously giving his time & attention to this
HOW I CAME TO MEET & WORK WITH
This story begins in Berkeley, California.
I was studying Indian music, sarangi, at Mills College
with Pandit Ram Narayan. To my great surprise I had won a scholarship
to study at the Indian music school which was part of the Ali
Ak Bar Khan School of Music, at the time. My teacher
had a friend who was, then, a young French composer named
Jean-Claude Eloi. I liked Jean-Claude. He liked my best friend named
Susie, also studying music. Susie was & is a multi-instrumentalist, now living
in Mendocino, but then she was resident of Berkeley & studying Japan-
ese music. We both played in Daniel Moore's
Floating Lotus Magic Opera Company
Although I myself liked Jean-Claude, I sympathized
with his fascination for Susie, who actually liked Christopher Tree, another
improvisational musician & in fact, we all took a trip together to hear Chris-
topher's music in Santa Barbara. Poor Jean Claude was dis-
tressed to understand Susie's true passion, but
he was very dignified, writing music in
the guest house where we were
When I left Berkeley, to study music, I
gave my room, a nice room with silver floors & small kitchen & bath,
to Jean Claude, a romantic place above a garage covered with nasturtiums.
In those days one could always get nice, cheap places to live. I later re-
ceived , however, an irate letter from Jean-Claude, whose
house had been raided by the police. Apparently
the former tenant had been a big LSD dealer, how was I to know
that & Jean Claude either thought I was this dealer or that I simply had
chosen not to inform him. neither of these. I had no idea about
the activities of this former tenant & wrote immediately
to Jean Claude w. this information.. My letter however
arrived after he had thrown most of my books & records
outside, or had the police done that? At any rate, most of this
was then recovered by a distant or imagined-to-be-cousin & I left for India
via an over-land route a few months later. On the way I
met with Jean Claude in Paris & he contritely gave me
3 or 4 volumes of a writer named
he thought I wld. want to read this author.
I faithfully carried these volumes
to India, across the Trans Siberian express to Istanbul
& thereafter by a series of local trains, buses & jeeps. Jean Claude
was, anyway, a very elegant person & I had also re-met my Romanian family in Paris & somehow these connections were strong ones.
To my surprise I found myself
teaching French in Bombay, to earn a living, while I
studied music. First I taught in Sumati Moragi's School but I
was unable to control the children...Then, by a series of chance
incidents, I'd over heard, at a party separated by a
distance of at least 40 feet, a conversation
in which it was disclosed that the Cathedral
High School, a prestigious private school in Bombay, needed
a French teacher. I immediately suggested myself...&
was miraculously hired. The students were
not swinging from the rafters & I was somehow
able to arrive to the classes & teach, in my little saris,
I found the atmosphere somewhat dull. but I distinctly
remember the joy of translating Michaux
in the library of that school.
I liked the Vedic prayers
& was studying the Ramanyana, The Mahabharata, the
school of literature that carried the devotional love, but
I was at times rather bored by it, also because the translations were
not very exciting. Therefore, I was amazed to dis-
cover that this Mr. Henri Michaux was
covering the same territory,
but safely beyond the temple, the tradition & the
hierarchy of belief...It was like a rewritten form of the same
old... 'Ecco Homo' . I continued translating
Mr. Michaux , without any idea of
who he really was or his importance
to French or European literature. I had however a strong background in
the symbolist school & had read, with great interest,
Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Nerval, Baudelaire, Verlaine & Valéry.
One of the things I had noticed about
Sanskrit recitation was the way it carried the
symbolist concept to a higher degree & created not mere thought
forms but the possibility of total transmutation through
the spoken & written word, obviously these prayers
cld. create fire, or rain.
was not about to start a forest
fire, but with great enthusiasm I explored the secret world
of his mind & kept this up, even in the most in-
timate or strange situations, translating
Vers La Complétude
in the ancient city of Udaipur,
which was also the home of the great yogini
& princess Mira-Bai another author
I was later to translate.
My first stay in India finished dramatically
when I was unable to integrate the situation before, after
& during the Pakistani/Indian war, the first of the CIA spon-
sored military undertakings,
I was to later learn.
I went to the American Embassy, begging
to be repatriated, but they said, "there is no war...what are
you talking about?" In the news stand, one cld. see American newspapers
with headlines like NO SUBS IN THE BAY OF BENGAL & Indian
newspapers with pictures of the American
nuclear submarines in the Bay of Bengal.
The peaceful beach front where I lived,
with my then boyfriend Joep Bor, became a battle ground.
The night of the first black out, I stood alone in a small hut,
completely paralyzed after hearing the first explosions
of what seemed to be 'bombs', actually, I later
discovered it was all a test, a kind of
(on the part of the military).
I waited all night for the Pakistani soldiers to come off their ships & rape me,
but no Pakistani soldiers appeared. My mind was in 'shell shock'
the effects of which took at least a year to wear off...
Clothed in that garment, I returned first to
Europe, then to the USA. I later re-met Joep in Amsterdam
& lived with him for the next few years, but we were almost like strangers,
unfortunately. Friends helped me to go through the
Michaux work, John Taylor, Sidonie Rochon, but
mostly I kept my literary side a kind of
especially the Michaux & Daumal work
(l literally I kept the manuscripts under my bed.)
Later Joep returned to India alone,
our relationship was over but I hung onto like a
drowning person clings to a boat... I visited him in his small
rooms at the University of Delhi & rather than play sarangi, which disturbed him, I dutifully played flute & spent hours translating Daumal & Mira Bai.
(the theory being that if he didn't like a musician,he might like a 'translator',
my strategy didn't work,of course).
When I returned to Amsterdam I had an entire collection
of both Michaux & Daumal not too sure what to do with it. Then,
still waiting for Joep, Ira Cohen showed up, exactly as
I knew 'someone' wld...& he knew what to do with
me & my work...Soon we were going around
to the poets and editors of the city. ..I was too shy &
awkward to do this on my own. People like Bill Levy made
very intelligent suggestions...saying the work
was valuable & that I ought to
do something with it,
(write to American publishers).
Ira left to meet Petra Vogt & tentatively
thought to do a Michaux/Daumal book with his small press,
Bardo Matrix. Gerard Melanga in Rotterdam also thought to publish
some of the work w. his press Cold Turkey, but these plans didn't
Instead, New Directions immediately wanted the
Daumal, without however even knowing what it was &
as I was going to Paris to see Swami Muktananda & had received very
strong indications to do so, I wrote to Michaux...
told him about my translations
I had his address from another French poet.
My Romanian aunt lived 4 blocks away (fr. Michaux)
& my cousin; who had originally sent me the Daumal work & some of
the great Michaux material, once I had exhausted the
3 or 4 books given to me by Jean Claude,
was his practically his next door
I met both Michaux & Muktananda.
The meeting with Muktananda was very powerful & I wondered if I shouldn't stay
in Paris to work with his disciples & at the same time
to work on the Michaux/Daumal texts.
The meeting with Michaux was very magical, yet charged
with sympathy. I was dressed in some kind of 70's costume from Manali,
green velvet & jeans, still wholly 'enraptured' by the mantras
& scene outside Paris where Muktananda was
My dear great aunt—who had been a pianist in Romania &
who assured me that our family had not been 'enslaved'...
"We were not slaves in Romania" she told me—
she also told me that the atmosphere of our 'village' (Botisani) was so sweet,
that she could not describe it in the context
of 'Western' (Parisian) life—
said, "I saw Jesus Christ on the television". I said,
"O yes, I was there"... My great aunt was the
only one to intimate the literary nature
of what I was doing & the only one to invite me to the
'family' house, at least for tea,
once I had, with the help of a cat
(who I took to be Swami Nityananda, Muktananda's teacher)
found a little maid's room, next to my Romanian family
at 36 Ave. Charles Floquet,
Les Champs de Mars...
I sublet my flat in Amsterdam
& moved into this little room to work. It was
here I accomplished my Michaux, Daumal & Mira translations
especially the Daumal....Mira Bai I used to translate, in particular
in a bar next to Mt. Picelle Grenelle (a métro stop)
& Michaux, in particular, in the restaurant
of a train station, on the Amstel River.
But once we were working together
I translated Michaux w. Michaux, in his beautiful
room on Ave. Suffren. Michaux & Claudio Rugafiori completely
accepted me & transformed my eccentricity & sensibility
into pure literary
defended me against his English translator
& personally selected the work he wished to use for a book...
There was a very strong ENERGY between us, a completely unviolated energy,
& he patiently helped me with the work
discussed and corrected it with me
(I knew almost all the poetry by heart at the time—at least
the sequence of poems, I had translated
& he was very interested in the Sanskrit studies...& in the spirituals schools,
this was a great liberation from the strange isolation I had
felt in Holland & for the first time
I felt a major shift in my capacity. This
was interrupted, when because of a 'spiritual error', at least
I think that's what it was,
or was it just hesitation—a fear to
'attachment' to my 'family')
a concièrge threw away 8 yrs. worth of my own poetry
everything thing from India & before...
(where I used to practice Sanskrit,)
as if the situation was not clear.
I later discovered that the neighborhood of my aunt,
including my aunt, thought I was crossing
the Champs de Mars each morning...
to score a
Il m'ont pensé une 'putaine' pendant que
j'étais complétement dediée à la parole...
ancienne et post moderne...
They thought I was a prostitute when I was, in fact, totally dedicated to the
WORD—ancient & post modern.
My work discarded,
I suffered a severe break with the 'Guru' ...as least his
outer form...The Buddhist lamas came to my rescue...I wanted to
leave Paris but Michaux said "No—not before you finish Daumal"
& he hired me as his English Teacher. Unfortunately
our relation changed...because I was
now dependent on him and so shocked—
but he continued to receive me w. great cordiality & concern,
& to work with me until the Daumal text was complete. He
particularly liked the Pali Buddhist chant. and his last great act was to
treat me to a 10 day retreat in a tiny Tibetan monastery
in the l8th arrondisement.
I wld. have remained in Paris. I had
gotten a job at the American College, but I did not know it.
I had a flat near Claudio & his then partner Max, on the Rue Mazarine,
at least for a few months, but I had a different destiny...
I went to London to work for Sogyal Rimpoche
& then met, 10 days later, Robert Beer,
& began a new relation w. him.
Through Robert I met
Namkhai Norbu Rimpoche,
but that is another story. Michaux & I remained
in contact, but the situation & contact was totally changed. Also,
because I was no longer 'alone' as he said.
My life grew very difficult,
there were more severe loses, psychic & physical...
saved my life as later 'I lay dying' on the streets of Paris...
& there began a long healing process.
By 1983 I was on my feet
(back in Amsterdam). By 1984 things were
beginning to evolve with clarity. I had met the
poets Udo Breger & Franco Beltrametti at
One World Poetry
(an annual 'alternative' festival )
Udo was to become a good friend
& Franco, a great inspiration.
I published my first poetry book
in Amsterdam, The Water Mirror, with Ira's help.... It was
a kind of critical, in our small circle, success, to
my surprise. I had also magically met
a printer named Felix Mansighn who had a per-
sonal interest in helping me publish small books, including
The Water Mirror,
once the original publisher
had backed down fr. his goal of twelve books,
Amsterdam School, nos.1–12.
My next project was Michaux.
I reworked the translation to Vers la Complétde
& wanted to make a book he
really loved. I still had some 'signs' he had given me when Ira was
thinking of publishing the work, Henry V. Tienden (Le Tirelemont, Amsterdam)
volunteered to pay for the set work & distribute the
book. I designed a small rice paper edition,
in 84 copies, the idea was to arrive at Michaux's
door on his 84th birthday, with an edition wrapped in
a Kata, a white silk scarf, usually presented
to Buddhist masters.
The printer was slow & Michaux died before
the book was printed. When I arrived in tears to the printer's office,
we immediately began work & the 3 days following Michaux's death
were spent amassing the pages & cutting the rice paper.
"He was watching you fr. the Bardo" wrote Virginia.
The text reads like a Bardo prayer.
For many years, once I had learned the
practice of Xiltro, the Buddhist prayer for the dead, I did this
People like him knew how to be kind.
They knew how to draw out the very best fr. a person,
overlooking the defects.
Michaux once said to me
"others bring knives to the house but you bring roses."
He had a tiny desk in his bedroom like for a very small child.
We worked in a small room filled w. piles of books & papers,
he sitting on one side of the table, me on the other.
There was of course a painting studio...
He described to me the wonder he felt upon first seeing
the paintings of Paul Klee & said he had been attracted to the Japanese styles
but when he discovered the Chinese,
he was overwhelmed.
Everything about the way he lived
was very elegant & somehow Chinese. He sometimes
talked about other poets & liked Kerouac's Mexico City Blues as far as
American poetry was concerned. He said that Allen Ginsberg's energy was
trapped in his sexual chakra but that he had sung
in a very charming way in a taxi once.
He said he wasn't meant for the 'religious
life' but that had wanted to be a Franciscan. He never
let his picture be taken because he wanted to
preserve, like an old master his
anonymity. He did not
want to be recognized. Claudio said he was a total 'clandestine' in Paris & even
refused Gallimard's offer to publish pocket editions of his work.
When he died, his concierge went into
a coma. Her husband & daughter were very upset. I
felt she wanted to help him in the Bardo. Michaux was transparent,
a completely magical being, who was totally alert &
enthused, when I met him
at the age of
When he died, he spent his last hours
talking to the nurse about his travels. She was going
to put an oxygen tent over his head but he said 'No'...he wanted to travel on...
I suppose the concierge felt she cld. be useful in the domicile.
Jane Harvey & I did the first reading
of Vers La Compléude in an elegant house owned by Don
Bloch & Iman in Amsterdam. We or rather I wanted to do this per-
formance, outside, on a small 'stage' which was
of course a kind of 'dock' on the canal
I wanted to put each sheet of the (unbound) book into the water after
I read it, but it rained & Jane cld. not sing with her tambora in
such weather. Michaux liked very old (or very new) music,
nothing else. I had asked Jane to sing Dhrupad music
for the reading.
We did the performance indoors & I asked all the people
to send 'lights' to Michaux's concièrge.
When I called a few days
later she had come out of her coma.
Michaux understood poetry as
a tool, he liked the phrase 'monastery of the mind'
which I once described him as creating w. his words. I
thought of him as a kind of Dzog Chen master
who through the dialogue of his
absolute medium, tore
open the illusion of this subjective
world & explored its limits, like a gifted child
Michaux lived through the Second World War
& the death of his wife, who was severely burned in a car accident
(he was driving the car)
& died three weeks later.
But his consciousness was totally open,
totally open & extremely refined.
He did not like his picture to be taken,
(& refused books on which his appeared)—throwing at least one across the
but was happy when the Dalai Lama saw his photo,
indeed selected it fr. others which were showed to him
by a French photographer "Who is this" the Dalai Lama inquired,
Michaux said, smiling "Now I'm in the Dalai Lama's mind."
"namo tat sat bhagavate arahate sambha sabhudaca"
This was his preferred prayer.
Louise Landes Levi
Ms. Nancy Peters of City Lights Books requested this essay to be written
& many of the translations included in this selection were read by the translator
at City Lights Books, San Francisco, California, February 1998.
This volume is also available through
Coronamundi Press, 2002.