Large Paper Copy

PONGE (Francis)

Le Savon.

(Paris), NRF, Gallimard, (1967).

8vo, original printed wrappers in black and red. 128 pp., (6) pp. Complete.

First edition.

One of the first 36 copies on vélin de Hollande van Gelder numbered 1-36.

Francis Ponge (1899–1988) was both a giant of French twentieth-century poetry and one of its humblest practitioners. The poet of “things,” he practiced a poetic contemplation – usually in the form of his own unique brand of hesitant, searching prose poem – of the everyday objects that inhabit our lives and share our existence. He began writing prose poems in the 1920s, though his first collection was not published until 1942. He joined the Communist Party in 1937 (he left it in 1947) and was active in the Resistance during World War Two. In the late 1950s, his work was praised by Sartre and Camus, and he collaborated with painters such as Picasso, Braque, and Dubuffet. “Perhaps the most obsessive example of Ponge’s approach is to be found in his collection Le Savon (1967), translated as Soap (1969). In this collection, each prose poem considers a different aspect of the life of a bar of soap, detailing each one from the soap’s perspective. When used for washing, the soap becomes sudsy with joyous exuberance; when left alone, it grows hard, dry and cracked. In addition, Ponge makes clear to the reader that their shared experience in the text has been nothing more than a linguistic experience having nothing to do with the object ostensibly being discussed. Ponge “develops a series of comparisons to show how the reader’s pleasure has come from his sense of playing a game, that the extreme form of this game is ‘poetry, the purely verbal game which neither imitates nor represents “life,”’ and that ‘words and figures of speech’ resemble other human concoctions like bread, soap, and electricity” (Poetry Foundation).

The lower outer border of the front cover faintly sunned, a very good, uncut copy.