Charles Pennequin & Jean-François Pauvros- Le Martien
Lenka Lente. Book + CD
The world of contemporary French poetry is as alien to me as the Rig Veda but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the delivery, the voice of someone reciting their lines in an increasingly vexed manner like they’ve forgotten how vexed reading their words can make them and now its all coming back and excuse while I blow a fuse here. Charles Pennequin is such a man. A big man with a red face and a bald head who records himself while driving, spitting out words while keeping an eye on that oncoming Citroen thats slowing down to turn left and isn’t indicating. French drivers eh? Maybe such incidents do inspire him? I was listening to The Verb the other night [R3 show that explores the written word as hosted by the lugubrious Bard of Barnsley Ian Macmillan, whom I am a great admirer of] and he was talking about how he fell down the steps at home the other day and while in the act of falling he was thinking to himself ‘this’ll make a great poem’.
Pennequin’s Youtube channel contains some memorable performances and above them all the word ‘REVOLT’ which may give you some indication of where we’re heading here. No translation required. Here we find Pennequin reciting his poetry at the side of a busy and noisy motorway, hanging over the safety barrier shouting his words into the roar of the traffic, struggling to make himself heard, a forty second clip of him reciting poetry while riding his motorbike, a motorbike with a raspy engine which when coupled to the noise being made by the ensuing wind makes this sound like rudimentary Power Electronics. His standing in contemporary French poetry and his oeuvre no doubt highly regarded by his contemporaries and admirers but very much an unknown quantity in the English speaking world due to the lack of translation of his work [as far as I can gather]. So much is unknown to us, so much left to discover.
Judging by my rudimentary research I’m assuming that Pennequin and the experimental guitarist Jean-François Pauvros have collaborated on numerous occasions and from what I’ve seen and heard they make for a good fit and I’m not just talking about creatively, Pauvros going for the Jimmy Page heroin years look and Pennequin with his shiny bald pate, bulging eyes and permanently gesticulating lips.
This latest perfect tiny tome from Lenka Lente contains Pennequin’s poem Le Martien and a disc containing three different versions of it as performed twice with Pauvros and the other being a solo affair where Pennequin overdubs his voice so that the delivery becomes a series of rolling and reverbed lines. Pauvros’s mournful electric guitar accompaniment is a funereal thing full of softly strummed strings, thumped scratch plate, the occasional clang, frot and pull on the whammy bar as Pennequin delivery gets ever more vociferous and agitated.
I sort of translated the poem myself but I’ll spare you my rudimentary working of it; something about an alien coming to earth and not liking what it sees so it rings the mother alien and asks for advice. It doesn’t end well. During my ruminations I discovered that the French for flying saucer is ‘soucoupe volante’. I shall look forward to using that one and hopefully seeing some of Pennequin’s work in English.