A poem by Sarah Kernya translated and with an introduction by Virginia Konchan.
“Nothing is clear when you are perpetually ‘in search’ of something,” as Julia Kristeva says. “Elles Cherchent” (“They Are Searching”), an excerpt from a French poetry collection by Marseilles-based poet Sarah Kernya (pictured left), entitled Rappel (Bleu du ciel, 2007), creates a poetic volta—and theatrical denouement—to Kristeva’s observation. A collection of cartographic poetics set in a post-9/11 international landscape of fear, Rappel forges historic lineages and paths forward into signification out of the miasmas of global capitalism: “Elles Cherchent” interpolates the daily habitus of an individual life with the exigencies of relationship, with the ghosts and living ecrivains of French literature (Simone de Beauvoir, Pascale Roze, Elsa Triolet), as constellated in the moving epistolary fragments between the speaker and her female mentor and muse, Huguette. Restoring to contemporary poetics the Sapphic powers of granting names and social legitimacy to women outside of patrilineal structures (“Seven percent of the Goncourt prizewinners are women”), the speaker claims to “pretend to be an animal of significance,” while, through the very act of remembrance and marking (of ancestral and literary relations) in fact enacts her own, and others, right to be present, and occupy space, however futile the socio-political endeavor may seem at times (“Thirty years since Allende shot / a bullet into his head, / rather than surrendering”) in a new republic of her own making: that of poesis (specifically la langue of French letters, from the Song of Roland to Christine Pizan to Baudelaire) restored.