Friday, April 29, 2011

"If I Was René Daumal I Would Have Mastered Self-Love by Now": Guillaume Morissette on René Daumal.

One Word Is Sufficient (from Le Contre-Ciel)

Name if you can your shadow, your fear,
and measure the circumference of its head,
the circumference of your world, and if you can
pronounce it, the catastrophic word,
if you dare break this silence
weaved with mute laughter, if you dare break the
bubble by yourself
and tear up the plot,
all alone, all alone, and fix your eyes on it
and come blind toward the night,
come toward your death who does not see you,
alone if you dare shatter the night
paved with dying eyes,
by yourself if you dare
to come bare and alone toward the mother of the dead

in the heart of her heart your eyes rest

listen to her call you: my child,
listen to her call you by your name.

I like to google obscure poets a lot. When I type ‘poem’ in my google search bar, my browser remembers past queries and list things like ‘composure poem’, ‘mistake poem’ or ‘empathy poem.’ I owe maybe eighty percent of my favorite poets to a combination of arbitrariness, luck, someone’s search algorithm,, and people’s wishlists at

I learned of René Daumal through the wikipedia entry for Holy Mountain, a surreal/overly random/allegorical cult movie from 1973. The wikipedia entry credits Daumal’s captivating and vaguely odd novel Mount Analogue: A Novel Of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures In Mountain Climbing) as an important source of inspiration. I read Mount Analogue’s wikipedia entry then read people’s comments at and then ordered it and waited and received it and read it and liked it a lot.

Daumal was a French poet/writer known for his work on spirituality and perception. He spent his youth as part of a collective called ‘The Simplists’ and used drugs to experience the surreal or to expand his understanding of the para-psychological. In North America, he is best known for two novels, A Night Of Serious Drinking as well as the previously mentioned Mount Analogue, in which he argues that transcendental knowledge is attained through an understanding of reality and communion with others. Daumal died of tuberculosis in 1944.

As a poet, Daumal earned the Jacques Doucet prize in 1936 for his debut poetry collection, Le Contre-Ciel (‘The Counter-Heaven’). Spiritual concerns and altered states of consciousness seem to form the ‘fabric’ of Le Contre-Ciel, which also offers reflections on death as a beginning to life rather than an end, ways to expand one’s global understanding and awareness and the bleakness of the superficial.

Le Contre-Ciel opens with ‘Keys To A Poetic Game,’ a thirty-two part series that mixes rapid-fire poetry with analytical commentary. The book is divided in multiple sections and sometimes strays away from poetry only to return to the form later on.

Daumal’s verses, for the most part, aren’t difficult to digest at all. The poetry isn’t tortuous or convoluted or pretentious but instead straightforward and elegant and clear. Poems in Le Contre-Ciel can have a strange metaphysical effect over the reader.


Guillaume Morissette writes poetry and fiction and emails. He is a creative writing major at Concordia, which is probably the closest you can get to majoring in sadness. His work has appeared in Lickety Split, Synapse, Papirmasse, Headlight and other places, also. Some of his work can be read online at He lives in montreal.

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