Valérie Rouzeau
(France, 1967)   
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Valérie Rouzeau

When, in 1999, a small book of poems entitled Pas revoir was published, the often hermetic world of French poetry received a jolt. Here was the shock of an authentically new voice, which, in its urgent, stammered cadences and its amalgam of neologism and colloquial argot, joined together the emotions and vocabularies of an adult – and the little girl she used to be – in a lament for her dead father. The poet intertwining these voices was a young woman in her early thirties called Valérie Rouzeau. Utterly unacademic, Rouzeau’s poetry draws deep on a tradition of popular poetry in France that includes such major figures as Apollinaire, Queneau, Desnos and Prévert and which is unafraid to experiment with the pun, the neologism, and even with a kind of child’s babil. This is something Rouzeau has made especially her own, and in her later poetry (especially in the major collections Va où and Quand je me deux) it has become a finely modulated musical resource.

Valérie Rouzeau was born in 1967 near Nevers in the Burgundy region of France. Her father was a scrap metal dealer and once had his crane set down in front of her, as a gift, the salvaged remains of a van complete with seats, roof and sides. In one of her early residencies, at the public library of Pantin, a tough suburb of Paris, she recreated this kind of hideaway in the form of a fragile “cabane”, a poetry refuge that she decorated and furnished with images and books of her favourite poets. This set-up encapsulates Rouzeau’s life and work: she is known for her civic generosity (few poets in France today are so in demand at schools and residencies and readings), which is combined with a dearly bought and vulnerable privacy in which she composes her unique poems. She is also one of the finest translators of poetry in English into French today, the capstone being her versions of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

© Stephen Romer

Valérie Rouzeau was a guest at the 41st Poetry International Festival. This text was written for that occasion.



Je trouverai le titre après, Chambelland (Le Pont sous l’Eau), 1989
À tire d’elle, La Bartavelle, 1989
À cause de l’automne, supplément Polder n°62, revue Décharge, 1991
Petits poèmes sans gravité, (Prix de la Crypte 1991), La Crypte, 1991
Chantier d’enfance, La Bartavelle et Le Noroît (Québec), 1992
Patiences, Albatroz et Le Manège du Cochon Seul, 1994
Ce n’est pas le printemps, Traumfabrik, 1995; 2007
Pas revoir, Le dé bleu, 1999; reprinted 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2006 (Prix des Découvreurs 2000)
Neige rien, Unes, 2000; 2006
Une foule en terre foulée, with Michel Nedjar, Travioles, 2001
Va où, Le Temps qu’il fait, 2002 (winner of Tristan Tzara Prize, 2002)
Le monde immodérément, with Lambert Schlechter, Nuit Myrtide éditeur, 2004
Kékszakállú, Les Faunes éditeurs, 2004
Récipients d’Air, with Vincent Vergone, Le Temps qu’il Fait, 2005
Apothicaria, aux éditions Wigwam, 2007; 2009 (winner of Prix des Explorateurs, 2009)
Mange-Matin, Le dé bleu / l’idée bleue (Farfadet collection), 2008
Quand je me deux, Le Temps qu’il fait, 2009
Pas revoir and Neige rien, La Table Ronde, Paris, 2010

In translation

German: Nicht Wiedersehen (trs. Rüdiger Fischer), Pop Lyrik, 2006
English: Cold Spring in Winter (trs. Susan Wicks with an introduction by Stephen Romer), Arc Publishers, 2009

Essays and criticism

Sylvia Plath, un galop infatigable, Jean-Michel Place, 2003
L’Arsimplaucoulis, délice des Carpates, with Éric Dussert, Fornax, 2003
Preface of Neige exterminatrice, Christian Bachelin, Le Temps qu’il Fait, 2004
Preface of Tribut (poems by Stephen Romer translated with Gilles Ortlieb and Paul de Roux), Le Temps qu’il Fait, 2007


of Sylvia Plath

La Traversée in Arbres d’hiver, poésie/Gallimard, 1999, 2000
Électre sur le chemin des azalées, Unes, 1999
Ariel, Gallimard, 2009

of William Carlos Williams

Le Printemps et le reste, Unes, 2000
Je voulais écrire un poème, Unes, 2000

of others

Son mari – Ted Hughes & Sylvia Plath, histoire d’un mariage by Diane Middlebrook, Phébus, 2006 (Winner of Prix du meilleur livre étranger 2006, essays category)
What I Wrote / Ce que j’ai écrit by Duane Michals, Robert Delpire, 2008
Poèmes (1957-1994) by Ted Hughes, Gallimard, 2009
Ratsmagic by Wayne Anderson and Christopher Logue, Robert Delpire, 2009


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