Paul Éluard: Poetry in a Time of Dislocation

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Paul Éluard: Poetry in a Time of Dislocation

Editor’s note: This is the ninth installment in the series “Poetry in a Time of Dislocation.” Fine art photographer Fern Nesson asserts that the place for art is critical during this time of pandemic, and she has immersed herself in the French poets, translating important works and sharing them as photo essays. This week, Fern focuses on Paul Éluard, born in Saint-Denis in 1895.

(Click here for previous installments: Charles Baudelaire, Guillaume Apollinaire, Paul ValéryChristine de Pizan, Paul Verlaine, Alphonse de Lamartine and Anna de Noailles.)

Paul Éluard was one of the great 20th century symbolist poets. He focused on creating poetic images which could allow the reader to experience his poems both visually and through his senses. “La Courbe de tes Yeux” is the ultimate in love poetry; it speaks of life lived only within a lover’s gaze. It is a classic example of Éluard’s skill in creating lovely poetic images.

“La Courbe de tes Yeux” (1924)

La courbe de tes yeux fait le tour de mon coeur,
Un rond de danse et de douceur,

Auréole du temps, berceau nocturne et sûr,
Et si je ne sais plus tout ce que j’ai vécu
C’est que tes yeux ne m’ont pas toujours vu.

Feuilles de jour et mousse de rosée,
Roseaux du vent, sourires parfumés,
Ailes couvrant le monde de lumière,

Bateaux chargés du ciel et de la mer,
Chasseurs des bruits et sources de couleurs,
Parfums éclos d’une couvée d’aurores
Qui gît toujours sur la paille des astres,

Comme le jour dépend de l’innocence
Le monde entier dépend de tes yeux purs
Et tout mon sang coule dans leurs regards.

My Translation

The curves of your eyes trace a path on my heart
in a gentle circle dance,
The corona of their light cradles me at night
and I am certain that my life began
only after your eyes first beheld me.

Like the swift passage of days,
reeds swaying in the breeze,
or perfumed smiles,

Your eyes are wings veiling the world of light,
boats skimming between sky and sea,
messengers of wind and sources of colors,
scents blooming in nascent dawns as they
emerge from their bed of stars

As each day dawns in innocence,
my whole world depends upon the clarity
of your eyes
and my blood flows only in their gaze.

Lead photo credit : Photo: Fern Nesson

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Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fern Nesson is a fine art photographer with an MFA in photography. She visits Paris regularly where she captures interior scenes. Her work is abstract, and brings fresh perspective to lovers of Paris, while also illuminating interesting museum exhibitions and cultural events taking place in the City of Light. She recently published a book compilation of the popular Bonjour Paris series "50 Things I Miss About Paris." Purchase this beautiful, photography-filled book on Amazon or contact Fern directly by email: fernlnesson [at] She's offering a special deal for Bonjour Paris readers: purchase the book at cost, a $25 discount.


  • Karen Mullens
    2020-09-24 11:46:58
    Karen Mullens
    Thank you for this Paul eluard poem. I know nothing about this person except that I have a silver bangle purchased at St Remy many years ago ... engraved , it says. C’EST A PARTIR DE TOI QUE J’AI DIT OUI AU MONDE .... I have researched this many times and know it’s in one of his poems. I love it very much and enjoyed the poem you have presented.


  • Fern L. Nesson
    2020-08-09 06:29:40
    Fern L. Nesson
    Hi Sandy! I have not yet published a book of my Paris photos but will be putting one together soon. I will also put some of them up on my website: I've just ordered your book and will be watching Alphaville tonight! F.


  • Sandy Flitterman-Lewis
    2020-08-09 05:15:57
    Sandy Flitterman-Lewis
    I teach at Rutgers University in New Jersey. I teach courses in film theory, film and society, women and film, etc. My book, To Desire Differently: Feminism and the French Cinema (2nd ed, Columbia UP 1996) was the first in-depth study in English of Agnes Varda's work. Alphaville is all about Eluard's poetry and the possibility of escaping the robotic dystopia through love and language. Such a beautiful sequence using Eluard. I haven't written on that particular film, but I love to teach it. Now with distance on line teaching I have no idea what I will do, since I depend on class reaction to clips. Yech. I wonder, do you have a book of your Paris photos?


  • Nancy Shiffrin
    2020-08-07 12:48:34
    Nancy Shiffrin
    beautiful poem beautiful translation Nancy's Books FLIGHT new poems accepted by wordpoetrybooks GAME WITH VARIATIONS love poems THE VAST UNKNOWING poems of the creative life buy at OUT OF THE GARDEN/novel INVOKING ANAIS NIN/essay Nancy Shiffrin 1112 Montana Avenue #636 Santa Monica, CA 90403 310.463.6722


  • Sandy Flitterman-Lewis
    2020-08-07 12:01:36
    Sandy Flitterman-Lewis
    Oh Fern! What a beautiful translation! I always use Eluard when I teach Godard’s Alphaville. But your perspective has illuminated him, especially in this crazy context. Merci beaucoup !🌻


  • Fern L. Nesson
    2020-08-07 06:02:09
    Fern L. Nesson
    Thank you, Nancy! I am honored that a poet liked my translations! I am looking forward to reading your work! F.


  • Fern L. Nesson
    2020-08-07 02:44:13
    Fern L. Nesson
    Thank you, Sandy! Where do you teach? I would love t hear your tgoughts on Godard and Éluard. ("Breathless" is my favorite film but I will now re-watch "Alphaville.") F.


  • Fern L. Nesson
    2020-08-06 09:21:16
    Fern L. Nesson
    Thank you, Cynthia! I too love this poem and am so glad that you liked my translation.and photos! F.


  • Cynthia
    2020-08-06 06:59:10
    Lovely pairing and translation, absolutely needed during this time. Thank you!