Hans Faverey's Against Forgetting, translated by Francis R. Jones

by Matthea Harvey

Against the Forgetting presents selected poems by the Dutch poet and psychologist Hans Faverey (1933-90), well known in his own country but not in the English-speaking world. Like moving a spider web from one tree to another, translating Faverey is a delicate project, but Francis R. Jones carefully reproduces Faverey’s accumulative linguistic patterns: “Landscape, / rowing ever further // inland; land / without rowers; over- / rown land.” Eliot Weinberger’s introduction is also particularly lovely, an arrangement of brief observations and quotes from Faverey’s poems (“Faverey: ‘Facts / consist of nothing,’” followed a few tines later by this fact: “He met his wife on an island without vowels: Krk.”) that reads like an exchange of telegrams on the subject of poetry and autobiography. Faverey’s concerns—perhaps best articulated by Weinberger’s comment, “He loved the moment when a bouncing ping pong ball stops bouncing, but one doesn’t know if it has finally come to rest”—remained constant throughout his life. As a result, this book, which draws from eight published collections and Spring Foxes, a posthumous collection, has a coherence unusual in a “selected poems.” The poems enact philosophical concerns with language as both the stage and the actors: “this very day refuses // the arrant emptiness which / leaves even itself at a loss, / though all the gods were to blow / all the other gods through / the only gods remaining.” Head-splitting and god-splitting, Faverey dissects and trisects each scene’s idea, each idea’s scene, laying it bare to the reader. Images stand out in this work like flies caught in the aforementioned spider web, and serve to concretize abstractions (or point to the web) in an utterly original manner: “reality / is slowly hauled to the surface: / a diving suit with someone // still in it” and “Pink / and white geraniums where the windows // were, water where the pump was, / memory what I was like, where I am.”

—Matthea Harvey


Against the Forgetting came out in February from New Directions.

Dutch language
Spring 2004
The cover of BOMB 87