Thousand Times Broken
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Paperback / softback
Publisher: City Lights Books
Number of Pages: 162
Width: 12.7 cm
Height: 17.7 cm
Thousand Times Broken brings together three extraordinary, previously untranslated books in which Henri Michaux's art and poetry merge in ways never seen before, composing a journey in which we----with the great visionary Michaux as our guide----are invited to hover between reading and looking, between the ineffable and the known, between body and spirit into a realm where it is possible to perceive "what one otherwise doesn't perceive, what one hardly suspects at all." Composed between 1956-1959, during Michaux's mescaline experiments, all three books engage a dynamic struggle between the mark and the word as Michaux searches for a medium up to the task of expressing the inexpressible. Included are Four Hundred Men on the Cross, a ghostly, enigmatic contemplation of Michaux's loss of faith, Peace in the Breaking, written under the influence of mescaline, its title poem of pure ascension sent flowing into the same spine-like furrows of Michaux's India ink drawings, and Watchtowers on Targets, a singular, automatic collaboration with surrealist and abstract expressionist painter Roberto Matta. Translated from the French by noted poet Gillian Conoley. Praise for Thousand Times Broken: "This is an invaluable addition to Michaux's works in English, filling an important gap with a vivid, vibrant linguistic performance."--Cole Swensen "In his quest for the inexpressible, Michaux represents the ultimate paradox, at once visionary mystic and rationalist, as he seeks to chart the journey without end. Gillian Conoley's skilled and vital translations, as well as her deeply illuminating commentaries on the three extraordinary volumes collected here, are indeed a revelation and a gift."--Michael Palmer "In Gillian Conoley's committed, devoted translation, with her thoughtful introduction, appear three visionary works from Henri Michaux. Michaux's turbulent but nuanced struggle with the cosmic defamiliarization of verbal and visual art registers risk wherein alphabetical signs become marks or figures, and figures become signs, become words."--Norma Cole "In these three remarkable works from the late fifties, in which the activity of inscription inhabits the abstract mark as well as the signifying word, Michaux "perceived what one otherwise doesn't perceive, what one hardly suspects if at all." Now, through Gillian Conoley's impassioned translation, Anglophone readers can perceive it too."--Barry Schwabsky, poet and critic for The Nation About the Author: One of the most influential French writers and visual artists of the twentieth century, Henri Michaux was known for his explorations of perception and consciousness. Gillian Conoley is the author of seven books of poetry and edits the long-running journal Volt.
"Michaux remains difficult to classify-he wrote verse and prose that is alternately Surrealist, essay-like, fantastical, fabulist, and psychedelic ... [Gillian] Conoley turns Michaux's French into alert, fluid English to match the enface French: it's both a puzzle, and a pleasure, to follow along."-Publishers Weekly "Thousand Times Broken is an inventive and aptly hallucinatory collection of texts and images that offers a glimpse into the astonishingly un-minimal oeuvre of one of the twentieth century's mysteriously obscure giants. Published alongside the French original text, Conoley's work is an act of devotion to this looming figure of international art and letters, and captures the uncanny and occasionally violent pilgrimage undertaken by the "rationalist mystic" artist ... [T]he intensity of Michaux's desire to truly say something causes Thousand Times Broken to radiate with a fierce and humorous humanity; it is a portrait of a flawed creature, seeking and sometimes hitting upon the edges of the secret that Michaux has spent a lifetime chasing after."-Music & Literature "In the mid-1950s the Belgian-born writer and artist Henri Michaux experimented with the hallucinogenic drug mescaline. He continued taking it, on and off, for eleven years and wrote several books about it, describing, as accurately and objectively as possible, his experience of being on the drug, his heightened sense of awareness, but also his loss of selfhood. These themes were already apparent in Michaux's surrealistic, pre-mescaline writings, but mescaline confirmed his view that below our everyday perception a swirling chaos surrounds us at all times, could we but see it. He wanted us to see it, to share in this vision, and he used his considerable talents as an artist and poet to lay bare this hidden reality. Thousand Times Broken brings together three previously untranslated books composed during the period of Michaux's mescaline experiments; here skillfully translated by the poet Gillian Conoley and presented in a bilingual edition, with illustrations."-Ian Pindar, Times Literary Supplement "Henri Michaux's Thousand Times Broken: Three Books may be comprised of writing and art from 1956-1959 centered around his experimentation with mescaline, yet it easily exceeds initial expectations that fact might arouse ... Michaux's mescaline use takes a backseat to his greater subject: exploration of opening up the physical and mental confines of human consciousness as exemplified by visual art and written word ... Michaux's visual art serves as a guiding principle behind [Gillian] Conoley's organization of Thousand Times Broken ... Michaux's work provides a fascinating and unique glimpse of the inner workings of human consciousness yet somehow he himself manages remain at once outside of it. He's not alien, just other."-Patrick James Dunagan, Bookslut "The reader is asked to switch between seeing and reading, and the effect is to keep the mind alert to the shifting nature without letting any single image become too static ... [Gillian] Conoley has done a very important service to English students of literature and the drug-writing tradition by translating these works for the first time. A fantastic effort that, by displaying the original French as well, leaves the text as open as perhaps Michaux always intended his works to be."--Psychedelic Press UK "Henri Michaux's mescaline writings are celebrated for the freedoms they take, and rightly so. But the more one reads Michaux, the more he emerges as a poet who masters his essential difficulties, achieving not only ecstatic dissolutions but stabilities earned against the odds. His work comprises a protective strategy----a wavering sense of self-identity mitigates one's fear of others. At the same time, he spends himself. His claim on us-and he is not so selfless as to not stake a claim -- depends on our doing the same. Despite what we learned in Zoology 101, fight or flight are not the only alternatives. One can also take the drug and lie down before the beast."-Ron Slate, On the Seawall