Three poems by Hélène Dorion, translated from the French (Canada) by Susanna Lang

Untitled by Charles J. March III

Third Coast Translators Collective is an international community of literary translators. Our members share resources, mentor one another, workshop projects in progress, facilitate pathways to publication, and foster a sense of belonging and excitement about the profession. We seek to build relationships with other literary and cultural organizations in Chicago and to become a valuable point of reference for international literature. This is the first in an occasional series featuring translations by members of TCTC.

The leaves

like flames
grip empty space
then fall
in the underground storm
alchemy of living
and dying

the forests sometimes
hollow an opening
inside us

The rupture

I listen to a wave song
over the horizon
floats on the mountain

wind unravels the light
seeks a face
for the coming storms

a blade knocks
against the masts
of our dreams
breaks time’s branch

The bark

whir of a saw
blurs the silence
pierces the wall
of our frail illusions

the forests creak
and this cry
unsettles our solitude

Les feuilles

comme des flammes
étreignent le vide
puis tombent
dans la tempête souterraine
l’alchimie de vivre
et de mourir

les forêts creusent
parfois une clairière               
au-dedans de soi

La déchirure

j’écoute un chant de vagues
qui chutent
à l’horizon
flotte sur la montagne

le vent défait la lumière
cherche un visage
pour les orages à venir

une lame cogne
contre les mâts
de nos rêves
casse la branche du temps


un bruit de scie
brouille le silence
perce le mur
de nos frêles illusions

les forêts grincent
et ce gémissement
secoue nos solitudes


Mes forêts (My forests) is Hélène Dorion’s most recent collection (Éditions Bruno Doucey, 2021) and is now part of the baccalaureate curriculum in France. Born in Québec in 1958, she has published more than twenty books of poetry and fifteen artists’ books, in addition to works of fiction and memoir and a book-length essay on art and creation. She has earned Canada’s and Europe’s most prestigious prizes, including election to the Académie des Lettres du Québec, Chevalière de l’ordre national du Québec, and the European Prix Senghor. In 2005, she was the first Canadian to win the Mallarmé Prize, awarded for the entirety of her work. In 2022, the Opéra de Montréal and the Opéra de Québec performed an opera that Dorion wrote with Marie-Claire Blais, who died in 2021, Yourcenar – Une île de passions. Dorion’s work has been translated and published in fifteen countries.

Susanna Lang’s translations of poetry include by Yves Bonnefoy’s Words in Stone (University of Massachusetts Press, 1976) and Baalbek by Nohad Salameh (L’Atelier du Grand Tétras, 2021). Her translations of these and other French poets are published or forthcoming in Delos, New Poetry in Translation, The Literary Review, Transference, Ezra, Oomph! Journal, Mayday, AzonaL and Columbia Journal. Her third full-length collection of original poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was published by Terrapin Books in 2017. Among Other Stones: Conversations with Yves Bonnefoy, an e-chapbook of original poems and translations, was published by Mudlark in summer 2021 and another chapbook, Like This, is forthcoming from Unsolicited Books.

Charles J. March III is a writer, musician, and artist living in California. His pieces have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times.