Just as light from distant galaxies takes millions of years to reach us, so does poetry seem to hail from a distant time, predating language and the written word.
This project is a reinvention of the cosmic myths and constellations upon a newly drawn celestial map, based on poems re-transcribed by hand, with eyes shut. I began to memorize the pieces by working blindly due to a trouble with my vision, which developed during the re-transcription of the founding texts (2007 – 2015). On this fictitious cartography of the universe, the points each represent one of the galaxies observed and recorded, to date. More than one million points will be counted and drawn. An initial constellation shall connect certain galaxies together, each associated with its own poem from varying epochs, thus beginning a subtle dialogue between authors. Impossible encounters and conversations across time and space.
The Celestial Map
This map is a product of my fascination with astronomical scales and numbers. It is rather difficult to wrap one’s mind around the concept of one million entities; it is a purely abstract mathematical concept. Using a tally counter, I will count to one hundred, more than ten thousand times. My intention is to experience what this number represents. That each point will be drawn by hand, and thus lived, is what makes this experience tangible. The observer shall therefore be able to grasp this immensity because it has been produced by hand, because the physical self has undergone the experience.
I memorized the poems by repeatedly copying them into a notebook. Without ever speaking the words out-loud, I relied solely on the process of rewriting the poems by hand. The number of readings that it took to commit each poem to memory determined the number of times that it was rewritten. These pages, now filled, represent a space of memorization.
Somewhat akin to Jorge Luis Borges’ The Library of Babel, all of the poems never written and all of those yet to be can find a place in Atlas. The initial constellation shall be formed by eight poems and excerpts randomly selected and re-transcribed in the following order: La Courbe de tes yeux by Paul Éluard, an excerpt from The Tempest by William Shakespeare, Ophélie by Rimbaud, Words by Sylvia Plath, an excerpt from Sans bout du monde by Hélène Dorion, Echo by Christina Rossetti, Mon tendre by Geneviève Desrosiers, and Pear Tree by Hilda Doolittle.
Together, they are as the words of a single phrase. Their random association creates a meta-poem and a story takes form, something more than the sum of its parts. With each poem and excerpt the story advances, unfolding, as do the significant chapters of one’s life. The first four texts are concerned with idealization, disillusionment and the eventual fall into the abyss with Words. Then follows the apogee: the words of Hélène Dorion meeting those of Sylvia Plath, offering an outstretched hand to pull her from the depths. Sans bout du monde ushers in a renaissance. The last three texts impart a state of nostalgia for the fragile union between two beings, born of their saving encounter. Despite the millions of light years that seem to separate them on Atlas’ celestial map, a subtle dialogue nonetheless operates within the constellation. These writers that never met, from different places and epochs, speak here with a single voice, as if time and space were rendered ineffectual.