Forty-seven Stations for a Ravaged Town presents the tragic story of Lac Megantic, and is Jacques Rancourt’s first book in English, translated by Donald Winkler. This long narrative poem’s lyric intensity has deep emotional wellsprings. It is a heartbreaking elegy for those who died in the Lac Megantic disaster one dark July night in 2013, transforming a moment-by-moment account of the catastrophe into an uncompromising denunciation of all the negligence and human error that allowed it to happen. Forty-seven people were killed by the explosions and fire resulting from the derailment of a train carrying a particulary dangerous cargo of shale oil. Between September and December 2013, Rancourt, a native of Lac Megantic, wrote this long poem, and to contain his emotion imposed on himself demanding artistic constraints: forty-seven verses to honour the forty-seven victims, while invoking the fourteen Stations of the Cross. Forty-seven Stations for a Ravaged Town keeps a tight rein on its profound anger through its clinical precision and admirable emotional restraint. Jacques Rancourt has here found the perfect cadence to communicate the horror of the tragedy, along with the economic horror that is a by-product of modernity.
Jacques Rancourt was born in Quebec and has lived in Paris since 1971. He has published twenty collections of poetry and artist's books, essays and anthologies devoted to Quebec poetry, French, African, Haitian and West Indian, as well as English and Spanish poetry translations. For the last thirty years he has hosted the French-English Poetry Festival and the magazine La Traductière. With Éditions du Noroît he published Quarante-sept stations pour une ville dévastée (2014) and Paysages et personnages (2012). This is his first publication in English.