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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry


Solstice and Other Poems

Aurélia Lassaque

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To purchase Solstice and Other Poems

Title: Solstice and Other Poems
Author: Aurélia Lassaque
Genre: Poetry
Written: (2012)
Length: 115 pages
Original in: Occitan
Availability: Solstice and Other Poems - US
Solstice and Other Poems - UK
Solstice and Other Poems - Canada
  • Poems in Occitan
  • This is a bilingual edition
  • Translated by James Thomas
  • With a Preface by Martin Sorrell

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Our Assessment:

B : interesting selection; bilingual edition makes for nice introduction to language

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Aurélia Lassaque writes poetry in Occitan (and French), and Solstice and Other Poems presents a selection of her Occitan work, helpfully in a bilingual edition. (Occitan is a Romance language, mainly spoken in southern France and neighboring regions; it is one of the official languages of Catalonia.)
       The first sections of the collection are a sequence of Solstice-poems -- The Call of Janus --, centered on a woman (Bella in the English translation) who has traveled here from America and witnesses the celebrations and goings-on surrounding the midsummer night's solstice on St.John's Eve (Day, Evening, and then Night, followed by a section on the following 'First Summer Dawn').
       Many of the pieces of this more elaborate sequence are very short -- some of these poems a mere sentence:

Dins sos pelses de flors de nuèch aconsomidas.

Night flowers lie sleeping in her hair.
       An album, it ranges from simple snapshots to summaries of brief episodes and events ("Children inside caves engage in primitive games") -- constantly moving forward, however, into darkness and flame as the night progresses.
       The latter half of the book, the collection of 'various poems', Dawn of Wolves, includes somewhat longer, more self-contained poems that go beyond the simplest observation and summary -- in largely darker strains. Here we find: "the muteness of present time", or the beautiful concluding lines: "She married an illusion/That vanished in the wind." Here, too, we find poems like 'Apocalypse':
The sky, that night,
Had swallowed the moon.
A man delighted in his wife's body.
A child bobbed and bounced a ball
Against the wall.
On that night
Only the old woman
And the dog
That the end was nigh.

They remained silent.
       It's always helpful to have the original texts facing the translation, and here this at least gives some sense of the sounds and rhythms of Lassaque's originals -- as in the opening lines of this poem:
La bèla bala sola suls camins
par las estèlas e par la salvatgina,

Bella dances alone down paths
of watching stars and waterfowl;
       Solstice and Other Poems seems a good introduction to this poet, and also offers an interesting glimpse into this intriguingly situated language, with its familiar Romance (French and Catalan, in particular) sound and feel, but also considerable distinctiveness.

- M.A.Orthofer, 21 May 2013

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Solstice and Other Poems: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French and Occitan-writing poet Aurélia Lassaque was born in 1983.

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© 2013 the complete review

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