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Paul Reverdy: "Toujours la" translated

by John Cobley

Sunday Aug 20th, 2023


This well-known poem describes a failed attempt to achieve self-knowledge. It has three mostly unrhymed stanzas of 10,12 and 8 unequal lines. Like Apollinaire, Reverdy doesn’t use punctuation.


The first stanza describes the chaos in the poet’s mind as he tries to come to terms with himself. This can only be done if the noise of the world, especially from people, can be shut out or left far away. But life can’t be shut out or escaped; despite all efforts, “unforgotten memories” like cold draughts can still be felt. Throughout all this suicide lurks. Ultimately the poet fails in his attempt but lives on to try again.


Still There



I need to stop looking at myself and to forget

To speak to people that I don’t know

To shout without being heard

For no reason all alone

I know everybody and each of your footsteps

I would like to explain and no one is listening

Heads and eyes turn away from me

Toward the night

My head is a full and heavy ball

That rolls on the ground with a little noise


Far off

With nothing behind me and nothing in front

In the void where I descend

Some sharp currents of air

Move around me

Cruel and cold

They come from poorly closed doors 

On memories still unforgotten

The world has stopped like a pendulum

People are suspended for eternity

An aviator descends like a spider on a thread


Everyone dances relieved

Between sky and earth

But a ray of light has come

From the lamp you forgot to put out

On the landing

Ah it’s not over

Oblivion is not complete

And I must still learn to know myself


Pierre Reverdy  

Translated by John Cobley



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