Rene Van Valckenborch
The fictional poems of Rene Van Valckenborch by Robert Sheppard and the European Union of Imaginary Authors
A Translated Man is published by Shearsman Books (May 2013). Details here.
Its follow up, Twitters for a Lark: the Poetry of the European Union of Imaginary Authors is also published by Shearsman Books (Nov 2017). Details here.
The double oeuvre of René Van Valckenborch in the first book is surrounded by mystery, perhaps of his own making, perhaps of mine. Supposedly published in fugitive publications in places as far apart as Cape Town and Montreal during the first decade of this century, the poems of this Belgian are composed in Flemish and Walloon, and the stylistic divide between the two sets seems to reflect the societal and linguistic divide of his troubled nation (although he never refers to this fact). The two translators, Annemie Dupuis and Martin Krol, worked independently of one another at first.
A Translated Man is largely a practice-led investigation into the nature of the fictional poem, i.e. one that is a fiction in itself. Usually such poems appear as hoaxes, like the famous Ern Malley ‘affair’ in Australia in the 1940s, or are gentle spoofs, ‘literary frauds that are not deceptive’, such as my own earlier ‘Wayne Pratt’ poems, of which Charles Bernstein wrote, in Attack of the Difficult Poems (Chicago and London: University of Chicago, 2011): ‘Pratt may be a persona for Sheppard, but not a persona used to mine deeper poetic or emotional truths than would be possible for Sheppard writing in his own name.’ (208). Cat and mouse is played with this deceptiveness in A Translated Man.
Select Van Valckenborch Bibliography
Poetry in French (trans. Annemie Dupuis)
masks & other masks 2002
violent detachments 2003
the twelfth noise in the twelfth row 2004
glance poems 2005
ovid’s twistier & new amores 2006
‘An Uncertain but Adequate Hold over the Thing’, Poeticological Digest (2003): 4.
‘Frozen Cuts of Light: The Scratch Cinema of Paul Coppens’, Chosement 1 (2010): 46-9.
Poetry in Flemish (trans. Martin Krol)
The Light and Other Poems 2001
The Fuck Me Shoes Chronicles 2005 (untranslated)
Rooms and Revolutions 2008
A Hundred and Eight Odes 2010 (includes Twitterodes (tweets 2008-9 @www.twitter/VanValckenborch.com)
European Union Of Imaginary Authors: 27 Translations (website and electronic media) 2008-10
‘Untitled’, een klap 7 (1996): 56.
‘Aprosody: a poetics manifesto’, een klap 16 (2004)
Read Eric Canderlinck’s introduction to A Translated Man here.
Watch Patricia Farrell and me perform part of ‘Background Pleasures’, one of VanValckenborch’s poems from the French:
Read more French poems, this time from Van Valckenborch's versions of Ovid may be found on Holdfire Press's website (scroll down from here.)
Turning to the poems supposedly in Flemish, read an early version of The Complex on Sunfish magazine here.
Read and follow his Twitterodes and feed on Twitter here. All 100 Twitterodes may be read there or where they are collected here.
Keep scrolling after that to see some of the individual twitterodes and the photographs of Belgium that accompany them.
Van Valckenbroch's 'Revolutionary Song' may be read in COLOUR here.
Read a piece of Van Valckenborch’s critical prose (not to be included in A Translated Man), an account of the cinema of forgotten Belgian film-maker Paul Coppens, here.
See some of the collaborative prints made with Pete Clarke using poems from the Van Valckenborch project, here.
Read Dylan Harris’ (unauthorised) account of a close encounter with the enigma himself here.
Read Ana Maria Crowe Serrano's interview with me about A Translated Man here.
John Seed voted A Translated Man one of his books of the year here.
Read Andrew Oldham's review here.
And here's me at The Other Room, where I read the Flemish poems of Rene Van Valckenborch.
There are three print reviews of the book: Michael Blackburn's in Poetry Quarterly Salzburg, and Tom Jenks' in Tears in the Fence which says (with some authority) ‘On this evidence, Robert Sheppard is now as Belgian as moules-frites and Herman Van Rompuy.’
'Urgent, melancholy, whimsical, hard-bitten, the voice of Sheppard/Van Valckenborch is also a force of rackety elegance which revels in the production of richly imaged often surreal phrase-extravaganzas…This is a dazzling addition to Sheppard’s oeuvre, witty, poignant, and endlessly entertaining, wrote Lyndon Davies in Poetry Wales.
My own reflections on A Translated Man may be read here. Of course, it was only the beginning as I then began to work on the other imaginary poets.