Poetry as a Foreign Language in Heather Dohollau and André du Bouchet

Clemence O'Connor* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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This essay focuses on André du Bouchet (1924–2001) and Heather Dohollau (1925–2013), a Welsh poet who lived most of her life in France and is only published in French. Poised as they are between French and English, these poets are uniquely placed to participate in current reassessments of language and bilingualism. Both poets were translators and relied on the experience of linguistic defamiliarization in their poetic practice. They view poetry as the translation of a language into, and out of, itself. By drawing attention to language in its materiality, and to the poem as a visual form, their poetics of ‘difficulty’ (Dohollau) or ‘surprise’ (du Bouchet) compels the Francophone reader to adopt a foreign perspective on his or her own language. Poetry is thus reinvented as the idiome dreamt of by Derrida: a defamiliarizing other language, potentially able to translate otherness in its own terms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-200
Number of pages13
JournalNottingham French Studies
Issue number2
Early online date1 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • bilingualism
  • contemporary French poetry
  • philosophy of language
  • translation
  • defamiliarization
  • text-image dynamics
  • idiome


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