translated from the French by John Taylor
Trás-os-Montes is remarkably illustrative of Tappy’s light touch, sharp eye, and deep-probing meditations on what is worth preserving from our haphazard being in the world. She increasingly creates a compelling sense of intimacy and outlines an existential journey. Has her quest, on the other side of the mountains, attained its goal? Nearly at the end, she tenders a conclusion in which the “you,” the man who has died and whose presence she is seeking, perhaps also applies to herself:
In this place without an origin,
remote from the living,
I find you again at last,
make you out
—John Taylor, from the “Translator’s Preface”
José-Flore Tappy’s poetry is like a rare song that rises only when it is pressured by necessity; and this necessity is that of a struggle not to fall, not to sink. For one who distrusts lyrical mirages, this song is as rare as water wells in the desert. Is it even a song? It is, instead, an utterance that has the force of rock, the dryness of bone, the sharp edge of iron. It is a poetry which, as a landscape, is hardly “Swiss,” but rather “Castilian”: there are stones everywhere, and a dispossessed female figure who, as the sun whets its knife against her, walks barefoot on them; here and there, a house whose whitewash dazzles; old women clad in black as if in mourning; spiny shrubs; threatened children. But to express all this starkly, as José-Flore Tappy does, inverts fear into combativity, disarms the enemy for a moment, asserts the light all the more firmly in that the night has become more treacherous.