Christophe Tarkos | Ma Langue est Poétique (excerpts)

Louise Bourgeois | No (2), 1973


Ma langue est poétique. It is poetic in its unrolling and its pieces
and in the wake of its pieces, it is not composed of words
attached to words by accident, by suffering, by stapling cor-
ners and catch-lines and straps and frictions and stuck-
together strings meticulously glued to each other to make up
their length. It is not extended by a miracle in perpetual dis-
equilibrium, it has breath, is a breath, is the breath, bypasses
all obstacles in passing through the sublime effect, in con-
tinuing on when nothing helps it continue, with a last leap.
Its breath pushes, reinvents itself in the heart of its breath,
kissing the air. Ma langue est poétique, unrestrainedly, without
stopping, without drying up…

Ma langue est poétique. It is not a great gaping silence between
the two columns of enunciation and their series of pure
terms in compact masses that bear down in regular vertical
series of facts and truths that set down, convene on the high-
est tracks pursuing an always heavier verticality further on,
written with compactness, by truth, each more true than the
other, more authentic than the other, coming from nothing,
from a laborious effort of overpanic and undermining in the
face of the prophets’ continuing murmer.

Ma langue est poétique in all its pores, in all its members, the
length of its whole sublime sensibility revealed by its magic
words, all its words, the least of its words is beautiful, pure,
musical, fortunate, the words of ma langue are deliciously
poetic. “Gnaw,” one of those magical words…



Bertrand Verdier interviews Christophe Tarkos,
November 3 1996—Paris, 13th Arrondisement


Bertrand Verdier: So you differentiate yourself from the literal, because you’re more in the idea that there is an absolute truth to say, which is not a truth of what is, which is a thruth without an objective complement. Is that it?

Christophe Tarkos: Something I really like, that Jean-Marie Gleize said, is, “There is no double meaning.” And the truth, for me, is the truth of the text. It’s simply that everything is in the text. At a given moment, you said, “it’s useful, the text is useful for something.” Uh, no. The text is not useful for something, it is something. What bugs me every time is forgetting the materiality of the text. There is truth in the text, that’s all, the palpable truth of the material existence of the text.

B.V.: Which is not a truth of something; the words have no referent.

C.T.: Yes, that’s why it’s not an absolute truth. It’s more the vari/, the ver/, the verita/, the variety … the material variety of the printed. It’s truly hormonal; the physical truth. If you say a word to a man and he’s sick, or a word and he’s better … you’ll say, “yeah, but the word, does it have meaning, does it tell the truth, isn’t it a twisted truth, is it …” who gives a shit! Nobody gives a shit! The fact is that this word has a physical effect.

B.V.: But one could always object that at that moment, your text is self-referential and therefore necessarily true.

C.T.: But at that moment, one is forgetting another thing, meaning. The thing is, it’s stupid, but a word is linked to a sensibility in relation to what we call meaning, sense. Something even stranger is that on one hand, you can say, “your text is sufficient unto itself, it’s pure materiality.” But you always forget that any word, no matter which one, makes reference to the sensitive function of sense. So on one hand, this isn’t an absolute truth, it’s material, but a materiality always in relation to the sensitivity that you have for sense, which is after all physical. You can’t say that it has to do with the formal problem, that means nothing whatever—unless you put incomprehensible signs, Chinese letters. That would be formal in relation to the image of the page. If you put any old thing, there’s our sense-detector that panics, goes crazy, searches for something; it would search for something in everything, even in Denis Roche’s Dépôts de Savoir de technique. We have, all of us , a working sense detector.


(Translated by Geneva Chao)



Louise Bourgeois | No (1), 1972-1973


Born in Martigues in 1963, Christophe, who had not yet selected the name Tarkos, spent his childhood and youth there as well. He then continued his studies in Aix-en-Provence in political science (which did not prevent him from taking courses in literature and philosophy) and successfully completed CAPES (Certificat d’aptitude au professorat de l’enseignement du second degré; a French teaching certification) in economics and social sciences. After becoming a teacher, Tarkos spent several years in various locations, notably in Dunkerque. Meanwhile, and for quite some time already, he wrote and became deeply interested in contemporary poetry, primarily in its engagement with sound, alongside Thierry Aué, a musician and Tarkos’ longtime friend. His first influences were the eclectic trio of Artaud, Blanchot and Beckett, and, for poetry, Gherasim Luca. After returning to Provence in the early 1990s, where he frequented the cipM (Centre international de poésie Marseille), Tarkos decided to give up teaching and to devote himself entirely to poetry.


In Nathalie Quintane and Stéphane Bérard, with whom he stayed in Lardiers, Tarkos found accomplices to appreciate and to share his caustic ferocity and humor, an attribute we later find in each issue of the journal R. R. Shortly afterward, having installed himself in Marseille, ‘Christophe Tarkos’ manifested himself through performances, continuing and realizing the written projects l’oiseau vole (The bird flies) and Processe, which were published thereafter. In fact, for him as well as for many of the contemporary poets gathered in DOC(K)S – a journal in which Tarkos published a number of poems – the writing thrives in performance as much as it does as text, and, along with 20 other examples, a performance such as “la Purée” (The purée) loses a large part of its meaning when amputated from the poem titled “le Compotier” (The fruit bowl). Moving on to Paris, and now living in the company of his future wife, Valerie Tarkos, Tarkos continued to produce such écrit-action (writing-action). In Paris, he met and began to collaborate with Katalin Molnár and Charles Pennequin around the journal Poézie Proléter, which led Tarkos to becoming interested in, as an extension of his work in sound, exploring an orality implemented in semi-improvised performances, such as ‘le Monde Magique’ (The magic world’), ‘Le Bonhomme de merde’ (The snowman of shit), ‘le pneu’ (tire), ‘je ne fais rien’ (i do nothing), “le petit bidon” (the little container) and ‘Je gonfle’ (I blow up).

Simultaneously, the pace of his publications accelerated, often based on the recuperation or the tireless reworking/re-envisioning of very old texts. It is difficult to say what all of this could or should have led up to, as an illness in the early 2000s brought it to an abrupt halt. But without much alteration is that which constitutes the particular profoundness of Tarkos’ oeuvre and produces its remarkable coherence: it is expression, which in any domain and in any format registers as a thought transcending all domains, that also connects literature and the arts, such as poetry, philosophy, mathematics and the sciences, into a single encyclopedia: ‘poetry is an intelligence’.

Philippe Castellin (Translated by Mia You)


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