Thibault Raoult - Here comes Rimbaud reborn, addled, and set on fire for the 21st century. Language is made new here by combinations that ask us to linger, not leap

Thibault Raoult, Person Hour, BlazeVOX, 2011.

"Thibault Raoult reaches across the orderly table of syntax and conventional content to grab the reader literally by the throat in order to redirect attention to language performing itself as an unresolved constellation of eros, humor, history, and social observation. Raoult’s high-energy BOOM of linguistic pyrotechnics falls onto the page in bursts of rhythmic pulse, parallelisms, and tonal families. The style of his sentences seems to imitate more familiar styles, the way patterns on moth wings might imitate eyes. Here comes Rimbaud reborn, addled, and set on fire for the 21st century." —Forrest Gander

"Derivative of no one, Thibault Raoult forms his own école. With “bluet as form” and “Brulée as content,” his first collection, Person Hour, is both sweet and alive. Language is made new here by combinations that ask us to linger, not leap: “Because spent spits / Jet beds, // Vireo marrow: / The brush & the hush.” Serious play. Fierce pleasure. Person Hour is a meal you have to prepare for." —Samuel Amadon
Thibault Raoult, born in Pithiviers, France, & raised in Rochester, NY, has published two chapbooks—"El P.E. [physical education of the elevated train" (Projective Industries) & "I'll Say I'm Only Visiting" (Cannibal Books).

From Having and Space

Thibault Raoult«Pro(m)bois(e)», Opo Books & Objects, 2016.

Some celebrities detail their own wardrobe. Thibault Raoult’s «Pro(m)bois(e)» works like a failed rocket scientist turned aesthete warming up to detail the entirety of his brain. Too casually brilliant to sound like nonsense, Raoult’s poems are also too brilliant, and too far out there, to resemble any poems we have seen yet on this planet… But «Pro(m)bois(e)», as far up in the ether as language gets, also tastes of our daily dirt… When I first read Raoult’s poems ten years ago, I thought he was an old man from some obscure trajectory of the French avant-garde, not a kid in his twenties from Rochester, New York. But nowadays he’s a man in space, with the mouth of a slap-happy oracle sending messages back to us: “When two worlds flare in a stranger/They say fossils will take over New Boise,/Assume anything.” - Matthew Henriksen

Dear reader, Thibault Raoult’s poetry potlatch is for you and you and you. Sweet surgeon, Raoult’s scalpel is a feather. He tickles your delight levers with cleverness—wows with somatic engines both aerial and astral. Eat your kidneys out, Hesiod. Hey, eat your liver out, Shelley. It’s Raoult’s turn to dandle the heir of the air on fire upon his versifying knee. Yes, this exquisite myth resewing drifts at us like volcanic ash or jetsam or gypsum—true, Raoult’s language way is spare, supple, effulgent. But the cultures of love will clabber in the end—won’t they. And Raoult’s horizon’s hem does ahem—in the end. In the meankindtime, dear reader, you will do well to get in the way of these nimble lines: let ’em dissolve into you a la snow upon the tongue. I’ll say this: the next time I drown, I’ll be secreting this book in a backpocket: rare and saving buoy; every word an antidote to turgid—and true.  - Abraham Smith

Paul Cunningham: Your book begins with an answer to the question most people probably ask when they pick it up for the first time: “A: rhymes with FRAMBOISE.” What can you tell us about the title of this collection? Does the “Pro(m)-” of the title have something to do with PROM (i.e. programmable read-only memory)? Or could someone possibly mispronounce “framboise” to sound like something more akin to “from Boise”?
Thibault Raoult: First and foremost at play in my third book’s title (to my mind) is the sonic coupling of a variation on framboise (French for raspberry) with the syllable Pro, which ostensibly stands in for a defective or defecting cousin and/or mirror-image of Prometheus.
I also wanted something thoroughly bi-lingual, if bordering on nonsense—something that could nonetheless be distilled down to what is only slightly more fun than programmable read-only memory (which hadn’t crossed my mind or heart until now), namely that alienating ritual: prom.
Of course your technological line of inquiry does have traction in the work, I’d like (or love) to think. The book is certainly read-only in one sense; in still another I view it as an opera (but not a libretto), i.e. sing-only.
Someone, perhaps you, could mis- or simply pronounce the title all kinds of ways. But, yes, I wanted to have an echo of Boise in the title for sure, not so much to ground the text but to ground me as I sought to disrupt the narrative, which is only there in the slightest to begin with.

Are you, Thibault Raoult, the (M)(E) of this book? Or is that (M)(E) me—the reader—searching for someone or something to identify with?
Lyn Hejinian—writing about her book Saga/Circus—speaks of her desire or need to write through her characters. (I came across Saga a few years into Prom’s making.) For fiction writers I suppose this might not be much of a revelation, but it’s shattering for poets to encounter/attempt. All this to say that, sure, I desire a version or all of me in the narrative fabric/structure.
But equally readers might themselves constitute the personal pronoun, (m)(e). As Pro(m)bois(e) was first shaping up, so many poets were disparaging the “I.” While I understood many of their motives for doing so, I thought, what about the “me”? Why not dispute, disrupt, and disengage the me as well; the parentheses move in that direction.
Finally, as with most texts, but this one in particular, the book is nothing without you/me.

I feel the writing demands careful attention (“der / some / thun”). There’s an exciting yet confounding deliberateness to it. Do you view the earliest pages of <> as a way of cuing the reader how to read the rest of the book?
I do. One [re]arrangement of pages 2-5 is “some dialogic thunder to have on,” by which the book could be alluding to a TV channel—one devoted perhaps to a now-defunct Attic Greek tragicomedy.

Pro, Etna, Echo—are these characters or devices? I don’t always think of them as bodies with, like, limbs and stuff. Sometimes I do, but most of the time they feel closer to materials. Non-human beings, but with human-like familiarities. Things that can still guess or correct or supply. Like computers. Were you attentive to different forms or bodies as you compiled these voices and locations and moods? Or, rather, modes?
While I don’t necessarily provide access to clear visuals for/of these characters’ bodies, I wrote the book with their bodies in mind. The image of Lotte riding Sandy The Bison Lovebird across a warm plain, for instance, is central and recurrent, and facilitates or offsets passages where absolute semantic meaning is absent. Your sense/sensing of material, your material feeling, is probably more important still. I wanted to set up a material environment, which includes bodies at times, and let it loop. I should add, too, that as much as the layout of the work matters to me (ruins me/(m)(e)-as-ruins), «Pro(m)bois(e)» has a life on the stage (and not much of a life off it). What I mean is when I read as or about Sandy I use a husky, plains-mammal sorta voice. I add or give or restore body in the staging.
But—to go back on my word—all these folks are mere devices helping me to instantiate a Poetics.

The morphological legerdemain of <> is what I truly admire. I think what poet Abraham Smith said about this book is extremely accurate: “[…] the next time I drown, I’ll be secreting this book in a backpocket: rare and saving buoy.” The description immediately brings to mind my favorite presence in the book: Pro. Pro is yarn-like and skein-y; pink with slush, stacked with suns; something closer to a liquid; a puddle; something unstable. Could you talk about the inspiration for Pro or some of these other, uhh, subjects?
Tomorrow, tomorrow! There’s always . . . Sorry, your use of legerdemain got me going in a different direction for a sec.
To answer one part of your question: in 2002 I wrote a poem called “The Prometheus Thing,” which was essentially a monologue by Prometheus about his experience chained up “because of his role in F=I=R=E.” A year later, walking around Brooklyn I came across (as one does) a flyer stapled to a telephone pole. The little perforated slips at the bottom displayed a phone number and then the phrase “Ask for Sandy.” Lastly in Paris I found a postcard of Lotte Lenya clutching a man on the set of a movie. My cinemyth took off from these disparate texts and visuals, by turns sustained and disrupted by the unstable psychosomatic whirlwinds I was experiencing and continued to experience when I first saw Lotte, asked for Sandy, and projected myself as Pro(metheus).

What do you mean by cinemyth?
Cinemyth is the sense of my double deployment of certain screenwriting stylistics and Attic content/context. Inasmuch as there’s a fairly heavy dose of narrative and imagistic splicing in the my text, for sure cinema’s important. Video also plays a part as a lo-fi counterpart. I can visualize (and I hope the text does the same for you) Echo, for instance, bopping around Pro’s head in black-and-white, grainy glory.

Would you mind sharing any films that have deeply affected your poetics?
I’ve given over large swaths of myself to the following films: Franco Zeffirelli’s Brother Sun Sister Moon, Roy Andersen’s Songs from the Second Floor, and the better part of Stan Brakhage’s oeuvre. Writing that out makes me realize I’m due to circle back to Songs from the Second Floor sometime soon.

Etna has TRAFFIC—like a city, like the Internet. Beige-bay has ACTIVITAY—like a newsfeed or perhaps a stream. Of water or data or maybe both! Pro can rewind. 4Winds possesses a number in its own name (i.e. 4). This collection feels underworldly rooted in antiquity yet otherworldly in terms of its sometimes seemingly unidentifiable subjects and environments. It’s simultaneously alienating and uncanny. It makes my brain feel the same way it does when I translate poetry from a different language.
If there’s ever a second edition, I’ll add “alienating and uncanny” on the jacket, or better yet maybe partner up with whatever company makes those lil blow-in magnets that keep people like me from stealing this text and ask nicely to add your phrase to their magnet.
In many ways I’m still processing the text. Is this dubious? Does it not bode well for the potential reader? I can’t say, but the book, as much as it speaks to a private mythology or final vocabulary, is also user-generated. The Greek angle is available but not dominant. The eros is rampant but not pervasive.
But really the in-betweeness you’re feeling (or felt) is what I’m after. I want the book to fall apart, not as a thing, but as an environment. Fall apart like a soggy log crushed underfoot by you the reader, who are Sandy to me. And your legacy—which I’d only be too lucky to call mine as well—is the moss or ‘shroom that grows in your [foot]print.

Was the ghazal form an influence on this work at all?
I wouldn’t say so. Although Anthony Madrid’s baroque lyricism­—at play in his own ghazal-centric oeuvre—was.

Some of the pages of this parietal book contain hieroglyph-like drawings. They remind me of cave drawings. Some of the drawings even disrupt the text itself. What input did you have regarding the visuals? How should we be interpreting them?
Absolute input. I drew ‘em.
Maybe treat ‘em like body tissue, Paul. They’re just there doing their own thing. Or treat ‘em like something floating past you in the ocean, i.e. keep an eye on ‘em, don’t let ‘em get too close, unless of course you want to add ‘em to your ocean-as-mother sauce. Treat them, don’t interpret them. Or think of ‘em of me. Me with nothing to say; and so a glyph in place of a mouthing. A mouth-glitch, in a word. A summary or summery sing-a-along. A dark moment. A roll of the dice. A cave with no wine. A hotline.
I’d add that publisher Johnny Damm’s algae cyanotype cover image choice (and gorgeous layout overall) disrupts the title/text as well. I thought my publisher had my back but then he went and obscured my obscure title! Feel me?

Is this textual node of yours a nod to anyone in particular? Any specific writings or writers that helped to shape this nervy, watery thing of wings and hooves?
I haven’t heard or read the word nervy in decades (it feels). I already mentioned Lyn Hejinian, but one can never cite enough. Others at play: Frank Bidart, Nathaniel Mackey, Alice Notley, Michael Palmer. A couple specific texts: Ted Hughes’ Crow, Galway Kinnell’s The Book of Nightmares.
Then there’s the painting world, too. If Prom were ever staged, Robert Rauschenberg would be called in to do set design.

What advice would you give someone bold enough to engage with <>?
Make your own poem out of it? Draw all over Sandy’s body: (h)(e) don’t mind! Support local theater.

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Thibault Raoult, Disposable Epics, Caketrain, 2014.

Read a 44-page excerpt (PDF)

Here comes Rimbaud reborn, addled, and set on fire for the 21st century.” - Forrest Gander

“When I say, as I occasionally have, that Thibault Raoult is the Capablanca of our moment in poetry, I don’t mean just that he’s irritatingly debonair, but that he can see the move that rips through settled understandings. He does it with his vocabulary: with ‘extant prams’ and ‘lymph,’ with ‘Mariposa U.’ Disposable Epics wears both its Francophone influences and its heart on its sleeve; underneath, though, an acute current of clear-eyed melancholy courses: ‘I want us all to be free. / But I don’t see it happening. // Not without me getting my cut.’ Maybe none of us can believe in utopia anymore, or yet. Raoult tracks the chilly syllogisms that maintain contemporary stasis, and all the while his verve holds out a giddy, gorgeous brief for hope. This is the stuff.” - John Beer

“Thibault Raoult’s Disposable Epics is revolutionary, exhilarating, leaping with delish whimsy and disjunctive wham-bam-F-yous-to-The-Man. Here is lippy irreverent romp and rally; here is wry political impulse wed to generous bodily imp’s pulse. His enthusiasm sprung will tickle you and everyone in your party until all your ‘Mysteries are left open on their backs.’ Read at your own feral.” - Heidi Lynn Staples

“Derivative of no one, Thibault Raoult forms his own école.” - Samuel Amadon


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