Guy Jean

Mourning Ploughs the Winter

IMG_74A poet whose work combines the centuries old Acadian tradition with contemporary French poetics, Guy Jean gives us here a haunting work of unforgetable lyricism. These poems are unafraid to play, but also give their reader a mythic sense of place and belonging. In these gorgeous translations by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky, English readers will discover the poet who has been called “present-day Villon.”

 Excerpts from Mourning Ploughs the Winter

A whisper. A whisper. A whisper
I have left on her skin

Come morning: it is her scent I hear
under my work clothes. 

Available from Small Press Distribution and Amazon 


If I Were Born In Prague

praguecover-1024x666“IF I WERE BORN IN PRAGUE re-interprets 17th century tavern songs and legends from the cultural heritage of Acadia, a culture destroyed when the British violently took over the region [into] poetry that also tips its hat to the French masters Rimbaud and Michaux.”

Ping Pong: A Literary Journal of Henry Miller Library

“IF I WERE BORN IN PRAGUE carries an evolved version of the troubadour torch, reading like a present-day Villon, with idealistic and romantic visions haunting his imagination. A remarkable, brief collection, unassuming in its small glory.”

Hey Small Press: A Newsletter for Public Libraries

Excerpts from If I Were Born in Prague:

If I were born in Prague, I’d avoid baroque concerts in libraries, libraries with plas- ter rosettes, libraries with flowers, libraries, with bland «Virgin and child». I would avoid it all.

I’d avoid talkative American women, the Little wax Jesus, Jesus who belongs to my imaginary childhood, to my father’s vocabulary: «soft as the velvet pants…»


I’d grow up as a prémontré monk and would contemplate at the bottom of the hill. I would sit on ochre and green roofs, by the cream walls. I would sit on church towers, by the blackened iron turrets capped with a golden ball or a pistachio green ridge. I would jump in the circular windows.

I’d become the first monk to frequent the Strahov book of gospels; I’d spend my life, anonymously, as a callig- rapher, binding in leather all useless and beloved texts.


If I were born in Prague

I’d become a streetcar driver, riding around the city of puppets locked up in closets. I’d become a Jew and sing the Kaddish to the walls. I’d whistle a lullaby to the children born in Prague and drink every morning, like a poet.


If I were born in Florence

I’d become a painter of the massacre of the holy inno- cents — their slaughtered bodies at their mothers’ feet in Iraq. I’d draw the Virgin’s silent hands without a face.

I’d abandon the city and its Vespas for country life where the breeze steals the smell of fresh pasta and olive oil from trattorias. I’d pay a woman to paint a girl forgotten by God; I’d love her to the sound of the bells for Angelus.


If I were born in Chartres

I’d be a cathedral of stained glass. I would offer my stolen light to the sun. If I were born in Chartres, I could not live in the present.


If I were born in Nice

I’d open a French-fries-and-cheese stand of fries and re- blochon, house-fries: each day firmer, crisp like tempura, cheese pampered, melting. I’d open my hands to the motions of minutes– I’d stand, naked, hands open to the sun, in Nice.


If I were born in Nice

I’d become a bather, breasts in the sun pretending in- difference to stares of those who pretend to be looking at the sea. I’d drink with women a wine from the nearby hills, a mute pleasure.

And after that, I’d die.

– by Guy Jean, versions by Katie Farris and Ilya Kaminsky

Available from Argos Books







© Copyright Katie Farris