A review of you by Chantal Neveu

Published on March 14, 2024

Chantal Neveu’s you, a self-described love poem, fills its brief in the broadest sense imaginable. Floating seamlessly between sensuality and desire, confusion and anger, and their attendant dislocations, you asks what it means for a relationship to fail and by what criteria. Persistent through the tumult is the transformative power of love, a force that, in every embrace, might envelop its bearers and metamorphose the world into something less than material. 

Chantal Neveu
Translated by Erín Moure

Book*hug Press

mirror on my neck 

a breath 

you are my fantasy 

mercurial drape of the curtains 

prisms and photons 

on the wall 




you is a soupy dictionary that runs at times fluid, at times viscous. It is hypnotic, lyrically enrapturing, and yet, in premise, a little too convenient. Whose amorous phantasmagoria have we entered, exactly? In a postscript, translator Erín Moure dismisses the mediatory function of the poetic voice, writing that “it is we, as readers receiving the text, who construct narrative connections.” I do not doubt readers will find connections in Neveu’s labyrinthian work, but the poem falters in its feigned denial that such connections are not already being made for us. Therein lies a contradiction between the voice, which has something to say about love and says it, and the form, whose forced ambiguity negates that meaning.

voracity of intuitions 

nullity of double dyads 

impermeability and discretion are not enough 

previous admixtures offer me no clues 

once again he faces my tears 

baroquisme of our eros 

in his hand

However commendable for its formal vision and lyrical expansiveness, for a topic as ineffable as love, one must be wary of attempts to form meaning from non-meaning, and the thin distinction between evading sense and having none.mRb

Ronny Litvack-Katzman is a writer and poet who, after a decade in Montreal, still gets lost in the Metro. He recently graduated with a MA in English from McGill University.



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