Why | The not boring film of the life of Patrice Desbiens

Patrice Desbiens, poet? “I have never defined myself as a poet. It’s just that sometimes I write poems, ”corrects the 75-year-old man in his drawl. “But I have to admit that after thirty collections, that’s a lot of evidence. Visit to the man who says he may have published his last book.

” [À] the parish hall / we watch the film of my life / on a dirty and / wrinkled white sheet but / there are lengths and / I knock nails and / fall asleep, ”wrote Patrice Desbiens, 75, in Why, his new collection. True to his habits, Patrice Desbiens tells beautiful lies in his poems: there would be a whole film, not boring, to draw from his life.

How did he start writing? “With a pencil,” he answers tit for tat. Smirk. Outside, a little chilly rain is falling, but inside his 2 ½ on rue Saint-Denis, although the curtains are drawn, a real warmth reigns, emanating both from our host and from all this poetry that the books that cover the wall. On the ground, at our feet, the old Olivetti he hit The invisible man/The invisible man (1981), one of his most important books.


Patrice Desbiens

Naturally not very talkative, legendaryly allergic to the inquisitive ritual of the interview, Patrice Desbiens was almost talkative that day, at least by his own standards.

a good poem

“I was so cold, lying under the viaducts. Since then, as soon as there is the slightest fret, I start to shiver,” he explains when his guest asks about these cut gloves he wears inside, just like his cap decorated with the Franco-Ontarian flag.

Lying under the viaducts? It is that Patrice Desbiens traveled a lot, in his youth, following the death of his mother. What year was it? He wasn’t old, that’s for sure. Teen. His traveling salesman father died when he was 4, in a hotel room in North Bay. The heart, probably.

The journalist tries his luck again. How did Patrice Desbiens start writing? Listening to songs from the Beatles on the radio in Timmins, his hometown. “I wanted to copy the lyrics, but the song went too fast. The rest I made up. I was trying to remember, roughly. »

Remember roughly? The Franco-Ontarian will make this exercise the heart of his work. If his books have been celebrated for their look at the proverbial daily life, his poetry is less one of observation of what is around him than of auscultation of his memories, which he densifies with the help of images. just slanted enough to give many tiny nothings a lot of magic. Or to restore to great feelings like love their banal humanity.

” [D]in my room under the bed / I kept a small piece of the / small stream where I / met her”, he wrote in “A rustle of stars”, one of the most beautiful pages of Why. ” [P]sometimes I take out the little stream and / I carefully place it on the / floor to listen to it flow”.

What is a good poem? “It’s a poem that you understand what is said. You have to see the image, it grabs you,” thinks the author of Sudbury and of big red guitar. “I try to keep it simple. The simpler it is, the more it comes to me. Sometimes I read cases and I wonder if it was not written by an artificial intelligence. »

Always free

Patrice Desbiens seems surprisingly serene or, in any case, less gruff than usual, although, on the health side, “there is always something”. He hasn’t drunk since 2013 – “not even a liqueur candy” – but had never been so careful until then. “It may be my last book,” he says. I’m tired. Writing a poem, after all, always involves “starting from scratch.” Does he think about death? “No, but I’m sure she, she thinks of me. »


Patrice Desbiens, at home, in 2003

How did Patrice Desbiens become a poet? The real answer will come without the reporter having to ask the question. It was in June, at the time of the end-of-year exams at the English secondary school where he was going, even if he didn’t go there often.

“I answered what I could, not much, because I hadn’t studied. All I did in those days was walk around and read. I asked to go to the bathroom, went home to the family where I was staying, packed myself a bag of essentials, and hurried from Timmins to Toronto. »

“My life hasn’t been as romantic as you think,” he hastens to add. But all kinds of things have happened to me. And nothing worse has ever happened to me than being caught in a school gymnasium in June when the weather is nice. I’ve been on the streets, but I’ve always been free. »

Who is Patrice Desbiens?

  • Patrice Desbiens has published around thirty books since 1974. Most of them appeared in Prize de parole and L’Oie de Cravan.
  • Chloé Sainte-Marie and Richard Desjardins sang her words.
  • He was born in Timmins in 1948, but remains associated with Sudbury, where he lived for a long time.


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