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Adebe DeRango-Adem reviews Yannick Renaud’s All is Flesh.
Part meditation on mourning, part discourse on the body, part exploration of the physics of human love, All Is Flesh collects Hugh Hazelton’s English translations of Quebec-based poet Yannick Renaud’s first two books, Taxidermy and The Disappearance of Ideas.
Taxidermy traces the alternating movement and stasis of two lovers who embark on a curious choreography of flesh. The Disappearance of Ideas reminds us how “death remains the privilege of the living”; life, in this conception, becomes a way to recuperate from our continual encounters with the “solitary void that depends on silence.” Renaud leaves the work of mourning unresolved and unsentimentalized, but cites the body as a channel of communication, its primary function to apprehend and console another person.
Perhaps most striking is the collection’s sense of ethics and of the human duty to love the other – something the poet insists is less a poetic, theoretical task than a material, political one. The notion of the world as a field of corporeality and of human life as a navigation of various forms of loving echoes certain Kierkegaardian notions of love, in particular the unrequited and unwavering love involved in remembering those who have passed yet remain “Ghosts of the present.”
Renaud’s poems are untitled and structured sentence-like on the page, simultaneously defying canonical form and reflecting the poet’s thematic interest in testing the limits of bodily constraints. The fragmentary style of the prose poems allows for ontological exploration. Hazelton’s translation reads with radiant and imaginative originality, and provides an instance of aesthetic transformation even as it offers images both inspiring and dark.
All Is Flesh does the recuperative work of reclaiming the body, something often lost to us along the trajectory of the everyday.
This review first appeared in the June 2012 issue of Quill & Quire.