Jean Lalou, my friend for 25 years, was born in Chaville when it was still
part of Seine et Oise. He wrote his first poems when he was 17, a student
of the rules of writing and verse.
A few months after his marriage in 1942 he entered a sanatorium.
"I may owe my life to tuberculosis, as many others left for the war
and many of these did not return."
He was a primary school teacher, then through his passion for English,
the language of the liberators, he became an English teacher.
This new book, published after his magnificent work "Fumerolles"
which came out ten years ago, brings together 50 years of life and has
had a profound effect on me.
" They are like vestiges, like pieces of broken pottery."
Reading his verses it is his love of words which comes through: "I
feel words are used bureaucratically in prose whereas in poetry they renew
themselves, die, disappear before returning; an allegory of the pleasure
He often told me that initially he was part of the traditional poetry
movement until he met Agamemnon, a future curator of the museum in Mantes,
who was a poet friend of Eluard. They were students together, a time which
was also one of their cadaveri eccelenti.. Agamemnon introduced him to
surrealism which he was never particularly fond of, but he did acquire
this magic love of words, of plays on words. He preferred the writing
of Alfred Jarry, Jules Laforgue, Raymond Queneau and Boris Vian.
Talking about his poetry I would say that it is touching, therefore profound,
yet suprising, both happy and sad, to be consumed without moderation,
fragmented and finely tuned.
Yesterday he told me " I lived without compromise for poetry then
one day I decided to turn my back on it...But it comes back immediately."
A poetical text is always an attachment, an attachment to writing, an
attachment also to the person who wrote it and transmits it.
To illustrate a book is to define a musical chord in the integrity of
a rhythm for it to be shared with sensitivity.
Read to accept the gift and the mystery, to be touched and to understand
the near and the far.
In order to paint it, to see the drawing appear naturally.
To see a whole as lines, shapes, sensations so they fuse with the profound,
expressed in colour for it to appear.
Jean Lalou once told me "You have seen what is hidden."
I knew it. I wished for it. Maybe only to give myself confidence, to walk
the tightrope of the drive to constuct.
To give a book an illustration is also to accept the delay before seeing
it, tentatively waiting for the second when the author's expression shows
either his approval or disapproval.
Holding the book, telling oneself at the same time that the illustration
should blend into the background to be in osmosis with the text, a panoply
of colours transmitting the tonality.