The definitive survey of an essential feminist poet.
In June 2019, Nicole Brossard was awarded the Lifetime Recognition Award from the Griffin Poetry Trust. Rarely has a prize been so richly deserved. For five decades she has been writing ground-breaking poetry, fiction, and criticism in French that has always been steadfastly and unashamedly feminist and lesbian.
Avant Desire moves through Brossard’s body of work with a playful attentiveness to its ongoing lines of inquiry. Like her work, this reader moves beyond conventional textual material to include ephemera, interviews, marginalia, lectures, and more. Just as Brossard foregrounds collaboration, this book includes new translations alongside canonical ones and intertextual and responsive work from a variety of artist translators at various stages of their careers.
Through their selections, the editors trace Brossard’s fusion of lesbian feminist desire with innovation, experimentation, and activism, emphasizing the more overtly political nature of her early work and its transition into performative thinking.
Devotees of Brossard will be invigorated by the range of previously unavailable materials included here, while new readings will find a thread of inquiry that is more than a mere introduction to her complex body of work. Avant Desire situates Brossard’s thinking across her oeuvre as that of a writer whose sights are always cast toward the horizon.
About the authors
Nicole Brossard was born in Montréal in 1943. Twice Governor General’s Award winner for her poetry, she has published more than thirty books since 1965. Many have been translated into English: Mauve Desert, The Aerial Letter, Picture Theory, Lovhers, Baroque at Dawn, The Blue Books, Installations, Museum of Bone and Water, Fluid Arguments, Notebook of Roses and Civilization and White Piano. She has co-founded and co-directed the literary magazine La Barre du Jour (1965-1975), co-directed the film Some American Feminists (1976), and co-edited the acclaimed Anthologie de la poésie des femmes au Québec (1991 and 2003).
She is an officer of the Order of Canada, chevalière of the National Order of Quebec, and a member of l’Académie des lettres du Québec. She has twice won the Trois-Rivières International Poetry Festival Grand Prix Québecor (1989 and 1999). In 1991 she was awarded le Prix Athanase-David (the highest literary recognition in Québec). Her work has been widely translated into English and Spanish and is also available in many other languages, including German, Italian, Japanese, Slovenian, Romanian, Norwegian, Catalan, and Portuguese. Two anthologies of her work in English have appeared: Selections: the poetry of Nicole Brossard (2010) and Mobility of Light (2009), with another planned for publication in 2020.
Nicole has been awarded le Prix international de la littérature francophone Benjamin Fondane, le Prix du CIÉF for International Francophone Studies, the W.O. Mitchell Prize, and the Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize. In 2015, she was included in the dictionary Le Petit Robert des noms propres. In 2018, she was the recipient of the first Violet Prize awarded by the Blue Metropolis Festival. Mauve Desert has been presented as a multidisciplinary creation in 2018 and is slated for an opera adaptation in 2020-21.
In 2019, an anthology of her poetry in Portuguese and a translation of Mauve Desert in Catalan will be published. Her most recent book in English is an art chapbook titled A Cappella with illustrations by Mauricio Corteletti, translated by Erín Moure and Robert Majzels.
Sina Queyras is an accomplished poet and essayist. She edited the first anthology of Canadian poetry published by an American press (Open Field: 30 Contemporary Canadian Poets). Between 2005 and 2007 she co-curated the path-breaking feminist Belladonna* reading series in New York and was instrumental in bringing Canadian and American poets into conversation. She has published six books of poetry and a novel, Autobiography of Childhood (2011). She received the Pat Lowther Award and a Lambda Literary Award for Lemon Hound (2006). Her most recent book of poetry is MxT (2014).
Geneviève Robichaud is the author of Exit Text (Anstruther Press, 2016), a nano-essay on the errant and secret life of ideas. Her research focuses on twentieth- and twenty-first-century writings with an emphasis on translation as the poetry of thought still to come. She holds a PhD in English literature from the Université de Montréal.
Erin Wunker is Chair of the Board of the national non-profit organization Canadian Women in the Literary Arts (www.cwila.com) and co-founder, writer, and managing editor of the feminist academic blog Hook & Eye: Fast Feminism, Slow Academe. She teaches courses in Canadian literature and cultural production with a special focus on cultural production by women. She lives in Halifax with her partner, their daughter, and Marley the dog. Notes from a Feminist Killjoy: Essays on Everyday Life, forthcoming from BookThug in the fall of 2016, is Wunker's first book.
(On Notebook of Roses and Civilization ) [L]yrical descriptions of lesbian desire coupled with a continued meditation on language. Brossard conflates writing with lovemaking [... ] the poems forming a grammar of desire, like a diagrammed body.
[T]he nearly hundred poems in Ardour appear as fragments, but their brevity belies their breadth. [... ] I feel saved by their intimacy, partly owing to their diminutive size: they feel like whispered truths, or at least consolations.
(On Baroque at Dawn) The book is studded with long poetic riffs that cry out, even in translation, to be heard. Brossard is the master of the headlong, breathless, involving description. [... ] It is an arresting beginning that showcases the talent that won Brossard a Governor General's Award for her poetry, as well as Quebec's Prix Athanse-David for the whole of her work.
(On Selections) [A] text lush with sensuality and sharp angles, precise and lacking fear. Even through translation it's impossible to fail to notice Brossard's control of words: the way they hold together with obvious strength yet create delicate movements as well.
(On Fences in Breathing) The voices of fiction and truth bleed in and out of each other; relationships ebb and sharpen; portraits are etched and blurred; the summer gives way to autumn and steel" in one breath. [... ] The atmosphere of reverie that mesmerizes the novel's characters and sends them careening into other selves also overcomes the reader - we are taken by the slow eroticism of great masses of language and meaning moving into each other, by the precisionof "the dry sound of the piano cover being lifted," the lyricism that Brossard nimbly doles out [... ] The English version is suggestive without being overt, and playful without seeming clever; it's the perfect translation of an elegant, complicated book.
Her language moves between sensuality and deconstructionism in a luscious interplay between the abstract and the corporeal. [... ] The new translations in Selections are a provocative delight.
(On Fences in Breathing) The language with which their stories are built conceals as much as it betrays, not only about the characters but also about the writer-narrator. Full of tantalizing loose ends and teasing suggestions, this novel invites the reader into a psychological landscape as complex and remote as the chateau in which the action takes place.
(On Notebook of Roses and Civilization) Nicole Brossard is a national treasure, and we don't need the Molson Prize and her two Governor General's Literary Awards to remind us of that. [... ] Brossard summons up the sorts of words that drive and haunt us: names of places and people, of cherished objects, words of pleasure and pain, words that "shoot up before our very eyes like cloned shadows replete with light and great myths." The word is entangled with civilization and its discontents, but also preserves and exalts the realm of the rose.
(On Intimate Journal) [A] a gorgeous, organically coherent and fully formed meditation on the nature of biography, self-reflection, anger, art, friendship and lesbian life. [... ] This prose is so eloquent, so precise, you feel privileged to be allowed inside her head. I just wish the book were longer.
Nicole Brossard's White Piano dwells along a series of temporal and physical borderlines: between the apocalyptic panic of the future and the archival pleasure of the past, between the body's politics of touch and language's typological risks, and between concrete detail and totalizing abstraction. [... ] Brossard works in a space defined by both a worry about the potential violence carried in the body and language and an understanding of the need forstory.
Other titles by Nicole Brossard
Museum of Bone and Water
All the Feels / Tous les sens
Affect and Writing in Canada / Affect et écriture au Canada
Writers on Writing in Canada
Regenerations / Régénérations
Canadian Women's Writing / Écriture des femmes au Canada
Fences in Breathing
Mobility of Light
The Poetry of Nicole Brossard
Notebook of Roses and Civilization
Other titles by Sina Queyras
Other titles by Erin Wunker
CanLit in Ruins
Inhabiting Memory in Canadian Literature / Habiter la mémoire dans la littérature canadienne
Notes from a Feminist Killjoy
Essays on Everyday Life
Barking & Biting
The Poetry of Sina Queyras
Critical Issues in Canadian Poetry and Poetics
Not Drowning But Waving
Women, Feminism, and the Liberal Arts