Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday: A Love Poem from Marguerite Burnat-Provins

For the past several weeks, our poetry offering seemed a tad heavy-going. We will do a little bit of a shift this time around and share a beautiful love poem from Marguerite Burnat-Provins. Many thanks to Anastasia Suen of Booktalking for hosting Poetry Friday this week.

Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Marguerite was born in 1872 in Arras, married in Switzerland, and is said to have lived a nomadic existence in many countries. Her short bio as I have read in my book (see below), described her poems to be “exuberantly erotic and romantic.” She is particularly known for her prose poems believed to be “the most admirable in French literature” according to Jean Héritier. Let me share with you one of my favorites.

My worse-for-wear, battered, much-loved copy of the book.
You told me: “I am not worthy of you.” And you hid your face from me.
But my kiss found it, and slipped lightly over your sweet golden temples where magic lies asleep.
What do you know about yourself? Nothing.
You know nothing of the charm and freshness that play around your beauty.
You know nothing of your laughter, similar to that of fountains.
You’ve never seen the shining nimbus that circles your head during times I wish were fatal, they give me so much happiness.
You’ve never seen your eyes where the whole sky catches fire and dies in the pleasure of my caresses.
You don’t hear the words which dissolve my soul and lead it toward paradise.
You don’t know anything, so shut up.

I love how the woman’s voice rings so true and oh-so-powerful with that last line: “You don’t know anything, so shut up.” As I was revisiting this well-loved poem that captured my soul more than ten years back, I was reminded of one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Ingrid Michaelson’s song Sort Of which I shall be sharing with you today. While the song is not as empowering as the poetry, it still is entertaining and captures that rose-tinted flush of romance. Enjoy the video clip, everyone.

Sort Of by Ingrid Michaelson

Baby you’ve got the sort of hands to rip me apart
And baby you’ve got the sort of face to start this old heart
But your eyes are warning me this early morning
That my love’s too big for you my love

Baby you’ve got the sort of laugh that waters me
And makes me grow tall and strong and proud and flattens me
I find you stunning, but you are running me down
My love’s too big for you my love
My love’s too big for you my love

And if I was stronger then I would tell you no
And if I was stronger then I will leave this show
And if I was stronger then I would up and go
But here I am and here we go again

Baby you’ve got the sort of eyes that tell me tales
That your sort of mouth just will not say, the truth impales
That you don’t need me, but you won’t leave me
My love’s too big for you my love
My love’s too big for you my love

And if I was stronger then I would tell you no
And if I was stronger then I will leave this show
And if I was stronger then I would up and go
But here I am and here we go again

Tell me what to do to take away the you?

And if I was stronger then I would tell you no.
And if I was stronger then I will leave this show
And if I was stronger then I would up and go
But here I am and here we go again

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

23 comments on “Poetry Friday: A Love Poem from Marguerite Burnat-Provins

  1. Wow, Myra. Both of these are beautiful. How amazing that Marguerite Burnat-Provins, a couple of generations ago would say “shut up”. It seems so out of the realm of her time. Ingrid Michaelson’s song is brand new to me & also a beautiful love song. I like that “and flattens me” (I am in love with verbs!). Thanks!

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    • Hi Linda, isn’t that ‘shut up’ line powerfully enigmatic. Of course, a lot may have been lost in translation since Marguerite is French, after all. Makes me wonder how that phrase must be like in its original form. Ingrid Michaelson is a favorite – one I share with my ten year old daughter.

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  2. Pingback: Poetry Friday Reads « Booktalking

  3. Her voice is astonishingly contemporary. Thank you for sharing!

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  4. macrush53

    Love them both. Hard to believe how long ago the first poem was published.

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  5. Another wondering pairing of poetry with contemporary music. The “shut up” took me by surprise, too. But wow, that’s some pretty sensual stuff. *fans self* Thanks, Myra :).

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    • What is poetry if not for the occasional ‘sensual’ stuff *fanning the flames even further with glee* – cheers to the ‘exuberantly erotic!’

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      • Wondering? Just noticed that error. Wonderful, wonderful! My brain is mush. Yes, we must always cheer the exuberantly erotic :).

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  6. I love this pairing! The poem sounds so modern…though – not flowery or saccharine, as I would have expected. Thank you, once again, for a Poetry Friday treat, Myra!

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    • Hi Tara, I am so glad you enjoyed it. I know what you mean about the poem not being flowery or saccharine in any way. I love these strong, authentic voices that cut to the chase. No bull, just truth.

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  7. Fats Suela

    “You don’t know anything, so shut up.” HAHA. Love the poem though. I’m still on vacation mode but slowly getting back on track. 🙂

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  8. haitiruth

    Great stuff! Thanks for sharing it!

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  9. I too am a BIG fan of Ingrid! I have always loved the part “Tell me what to do to take away the you.” It is so clear that it is not possible to take it away, and yet it is asked. The similarities between the poem and the song are so cool, thanks for sharing all of this!

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    • Hi Betsy, it was the “laugh that waters me” of Ingrid and Marguerite’s “You know nothing of your laughter, similar to that of fountains” that captured my sensibilities. Definitely a beautiful pair. Thanks for dropping by.

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  10. Great mix, Myra! I love Ingrid’s music but am not familiar with this song.
    “Where magic lies asleep” — beautiful! I would like to read other translations of Marguerite’s poem, just to compare. Or to see it in the original French.

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  11. I so enjoyed this! Now you have me looking for pairings of poems and songs.

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  12. The shift in that last line is such a surprise!

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