For Herménégilde Chiasson, every work of art is both a cry and a prayer. Beatitudes reflects this perspective by connecting everyday events — people losing their keys or their cellphone signals — to the universal. Sighs, silences, and human utterances all become part of an ongoing incantation that ranges from the personal to the textual, from the local to the cosmopolitan. In this postmodern "sermon on the mount," Chiasson has created a tour de force at once compassionate and complex, thoughtful and illuminating.
A meditation on what it means to be human, Chiasson writes from a deep sense of melancholy. Exploring the common bonds of humanity, he creates a tonal montage that probes our notions of who we are and who we might become. Beginning in mid-sentence and ending not with a period but a comma, Beatitudes is Herménégilde Chiasson's most important work to date, with beautiful lines that continue to echo long after they have been read. It will be released simultaneoulsy in French by Editions Prise de Parole.
About the authors
Herménégilde Chiasson has been called "the spokesperson and conscience of the young Acadian poetry." His poetry has been nominated for and won the Governor General's Award and twice won the Prix France-Acadie. In 1990 the French government named him a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. Herménégilde Chiasson studied visual arts at Mount Allison University, Université de Moncton, and New York University, and received his PhD from the Sorbonne. He has produced some 15 films, written 20 plays, and exhibited his paintings and photographs in galleries in the Maritimes, Toronto, and internationally. In 2001, Chiasson was one of a select group of artists chosen to accompany Governor General Adrienne Clarkson to South America. This special state visit was organized to foster new cultural and social links between Canada, Chile and Argentina.
Jo-Anne Elder was a member of the Romance Languages Department in 1990-1991. Since then, she has taught French part-time and more recently has taught in the Gender Studies Program. Active as a writer, translator, and editor, she wrote Postcards from Ex-Lovers (Broken Jaw Press, 2005) and has translated many works from French into English. Three of her translations — a novel (Tales from Dog Island: St. Pierre et Miquelon, Killick, 2002) and two books of poems (Beatitudes, Goose Lane, 2007, and One, Goose Lane, 2009) — were shortlisted for Governor General's Awards. She is editor of la revue ellipse magazine, a journal devoted to Canadian literature in translation.
"Beautiful... powerful... complex... compassionate... a classic."
"In translating Herménégilde Chiasson's Beatitudes, Jo-Anne Elder has met the challenges of both the emotionally charged content of the original, and its specific literary form, the litany. She has movingly rendered the complexity expressed in this contemporary ‘sermon on the mount,’ while providing an English text rich with sensuality, rhythm and a sense of communion."
quoted from the comments of the Governor General's Award for Literary Translation jury
"Lovely collection... his best and most important work to date."
'A collection which resonates with humility, awe, and acceptance.'
<i>Atlantic Books Today</i>