Pierre Alféri

Professor of Poetry at The European Graduate School / EGS.

Pierre Alféri

Biography

Pierre Alféri (b. 1963) is a French novelist, poet, and essayist currently based in Paris. In addition to being a professor of poetry at The European Graduate School / EGS, Alféri teaches at art schools in Lyon, L’ École des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, and in Paris, L’École des Arts Décoratifs de Paris and L’École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris.

Alféri earned a degree in philosophy at the University of Paris and published his thesis on William of Ockham (Guillaume d’Ockham le singulier) in 1989. Two years later Alféri published another philosophical essay on questions of language and literature, Chercher une phrase (1991), although he chose not to pursue an academic career in philosophy. Rather, his interest in language and philosophy led him to poetry, in which he has become one of the leading innovative French poets working today and has since published several books of poetry, including: Les Allures naturelles (1991), Le Chemin familier du poisson combatif (1992), Kub Or (1994), Sentimentale journée (1997), La Voie des airs (2004) as well as the novels Fmn(1994) and Le cinéma des familles (1999), and Les Jumelles (2009).

In several works, Alféri experiments with language formulas and reflexive writing without falling into the trap of empty lyricism. At the same time, he does not want to abandon the idea of composing a poem with a certain distance. For Alféri, prose is not a genre, nor is it the opposite of poetry. Instead, in his writing, all categories merge and stretch to compose a form that is constantly reinvented and connected to the surrounding world, while maintaining a critical distance. Alféri’s verse tends to be short and irregular, often using fast cuts and breaks, as if to signify the difficulty of achievement and the refusal to be chained up.

In one of his widely praised collections of poems, Kub Or (translated into English as Oxo by Cole Swensen), Alféri uses the concept of the bouillon cube, with each poem two-dimensionally reflecting a side of the cube. The book consists of seven poems; each poem is made up of seven lines, and each line is composed of seven syllables. Being not only a propitiatory number, a good omen, and a number of daily life, the number seven also challenges the dominant prosody in French poetry, and the use of even-numbered syllabic lines. This asymmetric meter produces cuts, surprises, and overlaps, as each poem describes an aspect of modern Paris in seven short lines. With their interest in the minutiae of modern life, these poems often focus on the media—cinema, TV, advertising—as well as the artifacts of low and high culture. Pierre Alféri takes the reader on a journey through the streets, commercial life, politics, and music of modern life, and examines to what extent the figures of the past inhabit the consciousness of the present. As a poet, he is not alienated, but always prepared to engage actively with the variety of experiences he encounters. Conversely, this engagement is expected from the reader as well—if the poems are bouillon cubes, the mind of the reader is the boiling water needed to dissolve them and fully taste modern life.

Every collection of Alféri’s poems takes the form of a particular story. In that sense, Sentimental Journey can be read as a mélange of paths, routes, and activities with seemingly no effect. The Anglo-Saxon inversion of the title invokes an American road movie from the seventies—neon lights, flashes, and LSD. On the other hand, the construction of verses resembles the editing of a film, underscoring the inspiration and affinity Alféri has with moving images. Expressive and diaphanous, this journey seems to be in search of its own map. Under the ironic titles of each poem, various events are described and then contrasted with blocks of displaced thoughts, creating language that is breathless and quick. In the end, it can feel like a memory of an unusual journey “into the history of the present, into the archeology of intimacy.”

In 1996, with his friend and fellow poet Olivier Cadiot, Alféri founded the Revue de Littérature Générale. Each of its two issues were more like a book, or a “digest,” as he and Cadiot diffidently put it, of poetic methods, mechanisms, ideas, and techniques, all aiming at a vibrant new conception of lyricism. Along with Cadiot and Anne Portugal, and to a certain extent Emmanuel Hocquard and Jacques Roubaud, Pierre Alféri is leaving behind the divide that has characterized French poetry since the 1980s, between, on the one hand, “poetry that sings” to an appreciable public and, on the other hand, an austere, abstruse, negative poetic sensibility (represented, for example, by Denis Roche or Jean-Marie Gleize). Pierre Alféri and his fellow poets, rather than deferring to a polemical style, are creating new, humorous, startling, and stirring lyrical energies, as exemplified by Alféri’s nightingale poems (from the collection La Voie de l’air, 2004) and by the “grunge ideas” of his 1994 collection Kub Or.

Nurturing collaboration with other artists, Pierre Alféri often performs with musicians, painters, and other poets. With Suzanne Doppelt, a photographer and fellow professor at The European Graduate School, he co-founded the literary review Détail, and with Olivier Cadio, he established La Revue de Littérature Générale. His collaboration with the sculptor Jacques Julien led to the production of the DVD Ca commence à Séoul (2007). Alféri has also written lyrics for the actress and singer Jeanne Balibar; he wrote two songs for Balibar’s 2003 album, Slalom Dame(“Cinéma” and “Ton Diable”), in collaboration with Rodolphe Burger, who composed the music. His own cinematic contributions have been edited and published as a DVD entitle, Cinépoèmes & films parlants (2003).

Throughout his career, Pierre Alféri has also been an active translator. He is well-known for his translations of works by John Donne, Giorgio Agamben, and Meyer Schapiro, as well as of the American objectivist poets George Oppen and Louis Zukofsky.

Works

Books

Kiwi: Roman-feuilleton, Alféri, Pierre. Kiwi: Roman-feuilleton. POL, 2012. ISBN: 2846824487

Chercher une phrase, Alféri, Pierre. Chercher une phrase. Christan Bourgois Editeur, 2007. ISBN: 2267018950

Après Vous, Alféri, Pierre. Après Vous. POL, 2010. ISBN: 2818000092

Les Jumelles, Alféri, Pierre. Les Jumelles. POLS, 2009. ISBN: 284682309X

L’Estomac des Poulpes est Etonnant, Alféri, Pierre. L’Estomac des Poulpes est Etonnant. Éditions de l’Attente, 2008. ISBN: 2914688741

Jacques Julien: Images pour la Micronésie, Alféri, Pierre and Julien Jacques. Jacques Julien: Images pour la Micronésie. Editions la passe du vent, 2007. ISBN: 2845621175

Farandole, Alféri, Pierre and Julien Jacques. Farandole. Versailles La Maréchalerie, 2007. ISBN: 2952563535

La Voie des Airs, Alféri, Pierre. La Voie des Airs. POL, 2004. ISBN: 2867449936

Sonnet, Alféri, Pierre. Sonnet. Mix, 2004. ISBN: 291472232X

Oxo, Alféri, Pierre. Oxo. Burning Deck, 2004. ISBN: 1886224668

La Berceuse de Broadway, Alféri, Pierre. La Berceuse de Broadway. Onestar Press, 2001.

Petit, Petit, Alféri, Pierre. Petit, Petit. Rup et Rud, 2001.

Natural Gaits, Alféri, Pierre. Natural Gaits. Translated by Cole Swensen. Sun and Moon Press, 2000. ISBN: 1557132313

Le Cinéma des Familles, Alféri, Pierre. Le Cinéma des Familles. POL, 1999. ISBN: 2867447135

Handicap, Alféri, Pierre. Handicap. Rroz, 1999. ISBN: 2913794009

Personal Pong, Alféri, Pierre. Personal Pong. Equipage, 1997 (1996). ISBN: 1900968452

Sentimentale Journée, Alféri, Pierre. Sentimentale Journée. POL, 1997. ISBN: 2867445574

FMN: Roman, Alféri, Pierre. FMN: Roman. POL, 1994. ISBN: 2867444403

Kub Or, Alféri, Pierre. Kub Or. POL, 1994. ISBN: 286744411X

Le Chemin Familier du Poisson Combatif, Alféri, Pierre. Le Chemin Familier du Poisson Combatif. POL, 1992. ISBN: 2867443083

Champs de Silence: Tjeerd Alkema, Marc Charpin, Francois Deck, Alféri, Pierre. Champs de Silence: Tjeerd Alkema, Marc Charpin, Francois Deck. Asnières-sur-Oise, 1992. ISBN: 2905271493

Les Allures Naturelles, Alféri, Pierre. Les Allures Naturelles. POL, 1991. ISBN: 2867442184

From Les Allures Naturelles, Alféri, Pierre. From Les Allures Naturelles. Translated by Cole Swensen. Ankle Press, 1994. ISBN: 1899152008

Translations

La Bible : Job

Alféri, Pierre, and Jean-Pierre Prévost, trans. La Bible : Job. Folio, 2004. ISBN: 2070301826

La Bible : Proverbes Adages de Salomon

Alféri, Pierre, trans. La Bible : Proverbes Adages de Salomon. Editions Gallimard, 2004. ISBN: 207030180X

La Bible : Isaïe

Alféri, Pierre, trans. La Bible : Isaïe. Editions Gallimard, 2004. ISBN: 2070301842

Ce qui reste d’Auschwitz

Alféri, Pierre, trans. Ce qui reste d’Auschwitz, by Giorgio Agamben. Rivages, 2003. ISBN: 274361000X

Jazz

Alféri, Pierre, trans. Jazz, by Tom Raworth. Bordeaux, 1996.

Parc

Alféri, Pierre, trans. Parc, by Cole Swensen. Bordeaux, 1995.

À vide

Alféri, Pierre, trans. À vide, by Tom Raworth. Créaphis, 1994. ISBN: 2907150472

Paradoxes et problèmes

Alféri, Pierre, trans. Paradoxes et problèmes, by John Donne. Allia, 1994. ISBN: 2904235736

The mosquito and the moon

Alféri, Pierre, trans. The mosquito and the moon, by Tom Raworth. Ankle Press, 1994. ISBN: 1899152008

Le temps passe ; suivi de Tant qu’y a de la vie

Alféri, Pierre, and Hélène Henry, trans. Le temps passe ; suivi de Tant qu’y a de la vie, by Lev Rubinštejn. Royaumont, 1993. ISBN: 2905271523

Un langage de New York

Alféri, Pierre, trans. Un langage de New York, by George Oppen. Bordeaux, 1993.

Prenez-en cinq

Alféri, Pierre, trans. Prenez-en cinq, by Julie Kalendek. Un Bureau sur l’Atlantique, 1993.

Jour de chasse: roman russe

Alféri, Pierre, trans. Jour de chasse: roman russe, by Lyn Hejinian. Asnières-sur-Oise, 1992. ISBN: 2905271515

Le taj bleu

Alféri, Pierre, trans. Le taj bleu, by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge. Editions Royaumont, 1991. ISBN: 2905271418

Le Poème de la chapelle Rothko

Alféri, Pierre, and Emmanuel Hocquard, trans. Le Poème de la chapelle Rothko, by John Taggart. Royaumont, 1990. ISBN: 2905271353

Un objectif & deux autres essais

Alféri, Pierre, trans. Un objectif & deux autres essais, by Louis Zukofsky. Editions Royaumont, 1989.

Films

Intime

Alféri, Pierre. Intime. Editions Argol, 2004. Paperback with DVD. ISBN: 2915978840

Ca commence à Séoul

Alféri, Pierre, and Jacques Julien. Ca commence à Séoul. P.O.L., 2007. Paperback with DVD. ISBN: 3260050819725

Pourquoi des Concepts ? 03 : Conférence de l’Enbal du 20 décembre 2006 : Cycle de séminaire 2006/2007

Alféri, Pierre, Jean-Pierre Antoine, Elie during, Patrice Maniglier, and Joseph Mouton. Pourquoi des Concepts ? 03 : Conférence de l’Enbal du 20 décembre 2006 : Cycle de séminaire 2006/2007. 2007. DVD.

Pourquoi des Concepts ? 02 : Conférence de l’Enbal du 20 décembre 2006 : Cycle de séminaire 2006/2007

Alféri, Pierre Jean-Pierre Antoine, Elie during, Patrice Maniglier, Joseph Mouton. Pourquoi des Concepts ? 02 : Conférence de l’Enbal du 20 décembre 2006 : Cycle de séminaire 2006/2007. 2007. DVD.

Pourquoi des Concepts ? 01 : Conférence de l’Enbal du 20 décembre 2006 : Cycle de séminaire 2006/2007

Alféri, Pierre Jean-Pierre Antoine, Elie during, Patrice Maniglier, Joseph Mouton. Pourquoi des Concepts ? 01 : Conférence de l’Enbal du 20 décembre 2006 : Cycle de séminaire 2006/2007. 2007. DVD.

Cinépoèmes & films parlants

Alféri, Pierre. Cinépoèmes & films parlants. 2004. Paris Musées. Paperback with DVD. ISBN: 291515001X

Panoptic: Un panorama de la poésie contemporaine

Alféri, Pierre, and Jean-Philippe Cazier. Panoptic: Un panorama de la poésie contemporaine. Inventaire, 2004. CD-Rom. ISBN: 2914412401

Articles

Repliques – Les enfants de la Hammer

Alféri, Pierre. “Repliques – Les enfants de la Hammer.” Cahiers du Cinéma 619 (2007).

Repliques – Pour l’amour d’Ida Lupino

Alféri, Pierre. “Repliques – Pour l’amour d’Ida Lupino.” Chaiers du Cinéma 608 (2006).

Le cinéma des familles

Alféri, Pierre. “Le cinéma des familles.” Contemporary French and Francophone Studies Vol. 9, Issue 3 (2005).

De l’ecrit a l’ecran

Alféri, Pierre. “De l’ecrit a l’ecran.” Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne 94 (2005).

Repliques – Tourneur, le gout de laisser voir

Alféri, Pierre. “Repliques – Tourneur, le gout de laisser voir.” Cahiers du cinéma 586 (2004).

Un accent de vérité: James et Blanchot

Alféri, Pierre. “Un accent de vérité: James et Blanchot.” Revue des Sciences Humaines 253 (1999).

Unidentified Word Objects/Blank Spots/Deskeshen Betwen/What Use Poetry

Alféri, Pierre. “Unidentified Word Objects/Blank Spots/Deskeshen Betwen/What Use Poetry?” Boundary 2 Vol. 26, No. 1 (1999).

Lectures

Pierre Alféri

Life Lines

16.03.2016
Pierre Alféri

Paralogisms of Realism in Narrative Film

19.07.2011
Pierre Alféri

Cinema and Light

18.07.2011
Pierre Alféri

Images and Realism in Cinema

04.07.2011
Pierre Alféri

Poetry, Religion, Prophesy

04.07.2011
Pierre Alféri

Symbolic and Literal Parallels

04.06.2011
Pierre Alféri

Movement in Cinema

04.06.2011
Pierre Alféri

Intentions in Experimental Cinema

04.06.2011
Pierre Alféri

The Poet and the Nightingale 4/4

15.03.2009
Pierre Alféri

The Poet and the Nightingale 3/4

15.03.2009
Pierre Alféri

The Poet and the Nightingale 2/4

15.03.2009
Pierre Alféri

The Poet and the Nightingale 1/4

15.03.2009
Pierre Alféri

Films, Novels and Poetry 6/6

28.06.2008
Pierre Alféri

Films, Novels and Poetry 5/6

28.06.2008
Pierre Alféri

Films, Novels and Poetry 4/6

28.06.2008
Pierre Alféri

Films, Novels and Poetry 3/6

28.06.2008
Pierre Alféri

Films, Novels and Poetry 2/6

28.06.2008
Pierre Alféri

Films, Novels and Poetry 1/6

28.06.2008
Pierre Alféri

Reading, Poetry and Multimedia 6/6

10.07.2007
Pierre Alféri

Reading, Poetry and Multimedia 5/6

10.07.2007
Pierre Alféri

Films, Novels and Poetry 4/6

10.07.2007
Pierre Alféri

Reading, Poetry and Multimedia 3/6

10.07.2007
Pierre Alféri

Reading, Poetry and Multimedia 2/6

10.07.2007
Pierre Alféri

Reading, Poetry and Multimedia 1/6

10.07.2007
Pierre Alféri

Language, Lyrics and Poetry

23.03.2006