The Four-Doored House

The Four-Doored House

A review of The Four-Doored House by Pierre Nepveu

Published on March 16, 2023

Much like the book’s title, there’s more than one way inside Governor General’s Award–winning Pierre Nepveu’s latest poetic creations, and much goes on within their walls: joyous births, long lives, imagined futures, love, sunlight, wind, and dust. The striking, densely packed, remarkably translated poems of The Four-Doored House deserve time spent with them as they stretch out time across verses, thoughtfully observing loved ones and the self throughout life. 


Life-expectancy is a notion halfway between

The law of large numbers and religious faith.

I don’t know if I’m talking to you to surrender to time

Or to stay its course. I roam Sainte-Catherine

As on the nights of my adolescence. 


Pierre Nepveu The Four-Doored House

The Four-Doored House
Pierre Nepveu
Translated by Donald Winkler

Signal Editions

The first section of the book, “Futures,” is dedicated to Nepveu’s young granddaughter Lily, and reflects the thrill of her birth onward, a reignition of the poet’s fascination with the world, as if seeing it anew through his granddaughter’s eyes. He envisions her long future abstractly yet with warmth, understanding he’ll have a place there too, in person and later in memory. Somehow this sentiment isn’t cloying or even bittersweet, but recognizes that even familial love and connection, while strong, shouldn’t hinder the will to live one’s own life, no matter what age. 


I wake to ants,

Hear far off your hairdryer mooing,

I wonder where you’re going tonight

or if you’re not more philosopher than me,

who thinks there’s wider space within

than without.


The book’s second section, “Intervals,” celebrates a different kind of love in a series of interconnected poems to C, the woman with whom Nepveu shares his daily life. Here, relationships are tied to the enduring earth, disrupting his long-crafted image of a self-made landscape – reality under this resonance of love is much more chaotically networked and invigorating. Nepveu shares this renewed vision of his world, reassuringly elemental and flourishing.


There are holes in the landscape, things gone

from the world’s ongoing to which I cling

with my thousand atom fingers and I enter you

dazed by speed, touched by weightlessness.

Robyn Fadden is a writer and editor based in Montreal. Formerly Arts Editor at weekly Hour, Robyn is Managing Editor of Delve at McGill University and a contributor to and CKUT 90.3FM, where she continues to extol the city and its creative forces.



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