Blaise Cendrars (1887 – 1961)

I bought “Complete Postcards From the Americas Poems of Road and Sea” University of California Press ed. (1976) off a remainder table at the long since defunct Britnell’s Bookshop near Yonge and Bloor in Toronto, kept it for years then inexplicably donated it somewhere in a crazed book reduction initiative, “What was I thinking?” category.

Have you ever done this? Got rid of some titles then later become overwhelmed by remorse and contrition when you go looking for something and realize that you have foolishly flung it away? Had to scrounge up the VPL’s lone copy to get the text of the poem below that I had never forgot. Just something about “Samoyed dogs are climbing up” that still gets me as mysterious, evocative and strange. So that’s where the name of this blog comes from. I get it!

Of course, old Blaise didn’t write exactly that.  He exactly wrote “grimpent des chiens samoyèdes”.  Translation of this excellent volume was by Monique Chefdor.

Blaise blazed a new route through twentieth century poetry, wrote some astonishing novels and passed through VCR one time in the course of his many travels.  I don’t think anyone here noticed.

Blaise Cendrars – Complete Postcards From the Americas Poems of Road and Sea



Ten P.M. has just struck barely heard through the thick fog
  that muffles the docks and the ships in the harbor
The wharfs are deserted and the town is wrapped in sleep
You stroll along a low sandy shore swept by an icy wind
  and the long billows of the Pacific
That lurid spot in the dank darkness is the station of the
   Canadian Grand Trunk
And those bluish patches in the wind are the liners
  bound for the Klondike Japan and the West Indies
It is so dark that I can hardly make out the signs
  in the streets where hugging a heavy suitcase
  I am looking for a cheap hotel

Everyone is on board
The oarsmen are bent on their oars and the heavy craft
  loaded to the brim plows through the high waves
A small hunchback at the helm checks the tiller
  now and then
Adjusting his steering through the fog to the calls
  of a foghorn
We bump against the dark bulk of the ship and on the
  starboard quarter Samoyed dogs are climbing up
Flaxen in the gray-white-yellow
As if fog was being taken in freight
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