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The Mirabelle Pickers
Translated by Jennie Feldman
Imprint: Anvil Press Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (96 pages)
(Pub. Oct 2012)
from The Mirabelle Pickers
Once up in the orchard, we spread large sheets of transparent plastic under the trees. Not all the plums here are fully ripe. You have to shake the branches vigorously using a long pole at the end of which Gérard has attached a metal hook. And down comes a hail of the ripest fruit, rolling in all directions. Tossing away the bad ones, we collect them into baskets that are soon full. Vuillaume keeps up a non-stop commentary, always to the point and sometimes quite trenchant. Gérard, as is his wont, remains taciturn. For my part, I prove myself a diligent worker, rather gratified to be in the role of those who had eyed me all along the road yesterday. [. . .]
Though I took the work seriously, I did not by any means stint myself, sinking my teeth into the most irresistible plums. And not only mirabelles: the orchard also had quetsches and greengages. It was the greengage plums I feasted on most, even though few were fully ripe. They are so unlike mirabelles, you could easily think them a different fruit altogether (though these days the name is used commercially to refer only to a kind of plum fed to pigs). The very look of them is delectable: great yellow pearls, their smoothness slightly freckled, and beneath that lustre, a pulp as dense as puréed sun. Plump and firm, some have already burst open as if overfilled with contentment, and the moment you taste them they dissolve, as Valéry puts it, into sensuous delight, much like ripe womanhood in love, the luminous fullness of flesh intimately linked to secret juices of the most exquisite kind.
In this beautifully translated memoir Jacques Réda chooses the height of the mirabelle season in Lorraine for a long-delayed visit to his home town, Lunéville. For France’s distinguished poète flâneur – motorized for such occasions on his antiquated Solex moped – the fragrant allure of plums marks the start of a series of impressions, encounters and musings that will take us in eight chapters from Friday Evening to Tuesday Morning, through a remembered topography that has largely shaped a lifetime’s writing. Réda retraces childhood routes – scrupulously avoiding, at first, the street where he lived – and renews acquaintances along the way. These encounters convey vivid particulars while at the same time registering the visitor’s preoccupation – often whimsical – with the passing of the years and their inevitable end-point.
Awards won by Jacques Reda Winner, 1999 Bourse Goncourt de la Poésie
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