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Borderlands/Chemins de traverse



Un poème en prose qui met en œuvre les motifs de franchissement et de traversée à partir du travail de la mémoire et de l’observation.

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1Vallon obscur. A name. Camera obscura?

At first, the dampness conjures up Watkins Glen
From a faraway distance in space and time.
And then a furtive glimpse into other canyons
(Death Valley and Oregon)
Blends with outlandish visions of tunnels and other frightening mineral bowels
The product of your nightmares
Or the reminiscences of movies
Or the stirred-up images of fantastic tales
Read or heard.
The long dark tunnels delivering us into life anew.

An incongruous encounter: a couple taking wedding pictures.

The sheer whiteness of the dress forming a stark contrast to the surrounding and stubborn darkness.

Their elegance undermined by the rawness of the pervasive irregularity.

A brook
Chanting, singing.
To be crossed and recrossed
Stone or no stone;
A clumsy path cutting through the luxurious and luscious vegetation.
Whispers in the air.
Glimmer and shimmer of the light games.

The outing itself like some project in the making;
The hike figures the beginning of a relationship:
How far will we go?

You stopped, and retreated
Deterred by the upcoming unknown.

We will therefore never know
What was awaiting us
Had you chosen to postpone the pleasant lunch
Had you chosen not to stop
Had you chosen to embrace the task at hand.

2Vallon obscur

Obscurity as a prelude to a dawn or
the dusk of our insecurities and fears and disappointments?

After dark, will the light return?


In the vale,

And beyond.


La longue avenue.
Les magasins de part en part—autant d’invitations à musarder, et se-dérouter.
Mais le regard reste fixé sur la lumière qui baigne le ciel. Clarté qui traverse l’instant depuis l’espace de l’éternité.

Une interpellation. Prendre la mesure du jour qui advient. Et l’éclairage qu’il promet. Sa profondeur, largeur et hauteur.

Et avancer résolument pour franchir le seuil de l’hésitation et du doute
Pour tracer une autre route.


Tiny plants in their small plastic containers at the store looking for a home and a new life.
The cyclamen begging for breathing room, tired of its constrained predicament.
I surrender to its silent call and transplant it into a larger pot. I can feel it ease into its new habitat and unfold its promising leaves. The flowers are more cautious, their size remains unchanged.

A few weeks elapse; you start noticing a transformation. The stems follow the lead of the leaves, extending their bold reach into the air.

A cue, perhaps, to a change of my own pot?
To expand and trust that I can fill that space more beautifully and adequately.


Un trottoir brillant sous la pluie. Une mer houleuse. Un vent rageur. Je sens l’épaisseur de l’espace, et sa résistance. Mon regard s’arrête sur un objet incongru. Un tableau abandonné sur l’asphalte.

Il ne reste que le cadre ; je me penche, je le saisis. Une invitation se fait entendre.
Traverser l’espace de la créativité de l’écriture pour explorer d’autres terrains.


She is ready in front of the screen. A zoom call with a friend she has not seen in thirty years.

Joy mingled with apprehension. Yet the excitement prevails and runs through the stirred-up expectations.

A name appears on the screen; suspense sustained for a few seconds.
Then a face.
An uncanny moment of recognition and otherness.

But the eyes and the voice do their mending work. And the long-interrupted conversation can resume.


Du bleu gris au jaune et orange
Le ciel azuréen prend des chemins de traverses.
Effusion de couleurs, exubérance sensorielle.
Ciel, terre et mer suivent leur trajectoire.
Ce qui est visible interpelle l’invisible.


Wind and sea in amorous embrace bristling on a thousand lights, resounding a thousand notes.
Rocks sticking out like some giant Lego game.

The cliffs disclose secret coves and caves, or arches where the imagination can linger and thrive.
They hang like huge paws resting or claws encroaching upon the sea, nonplussed by the lapping wild billows.
A faraway sail stands out—dark blue against the light blue sea.
A play of correspondences, clashes and occasional harmony.
Wind playing in the waves like brushstrokes on a canvas.
Gentle rippling and putting the sea in movement for the eye
glistening rather than glittering.

The mysterious dwelling in ruins on the edge of the cliff conjures up possible literary twins, the Usher Mansion or Manderley.
From a distance, the house looks like another rock.

Fellow travelers intoxicated by the tang of the sea:
ormorants flapping their wings, drying up in the sun,
a colony of birds, white dots on the giant petal formed by the smooth beach.

Some clouds project huge dark shadows on to the light blue.
The intimation of a coming storm like in Vivaldi’s music when the string instruments grow more ominous, more relentless—rebellious.

To risk a step forward, even if you have missed the previous step(s). The stumbling block is felicitous, it calls forth additional steps and propels forward.
To turn the unknown and the unfamiliar into steppingstones.

Errors as wanderings into truth, entries into something else.

Voyages in, voyages out.

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Référence électronique

Marie LIÉNARD-YETÉRIAN, « Borderlands/Chemins de traverse »e-Rea [En ligne], 20.1 | 2022, mis en ligne le 15 décembre 2022, consulté le 26 février 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Université Côte d’Azur
Marie Liénard-Yetérian is Professor of American literature and film studies and a member of LIRCES (Interdisciplinary Research on Narratives, Cultures and Society). Her research focuses on issues of history and memory, in particular in the context of the American South. It deals with the grotesque and the gothic, literary modes that involve different modalities of border crossings.
In my teaching, the emphasis on close reading aligns with my interest in observation and exploration—the work of inner and outer gazes.
Since the pandemic, I have introduced creative writing as a regular exercise, both fiction and nonfiction.
In addition, I have published two works of fiction under the pen name Thomas Therese: a collection of short stories entitled Ombres et murmures (Paris: Publibook Editions, 2018) and a pandemic novel titled Autopsy of a War (Paris, Publibook Editions, 2020).
Last but not least, because of my expatriate experience, the trope of crossing borders informs both my academic and creative work—hence the bilingual games induced by the choice of writing this piece in both French and English.
Marie Liénard-Yetérian est professeure de littérature et de cinéma américains et membre du LIRCES (Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire Récits, Cultures et Sociétés). Ses domaines de recherche sont l’histoire et la mémoire, notamment dans le sud des Etats-Unis. Ses travaux portent sur le grotesque et le gothique, c’est-à-dire des genres littéraires impliquant différentes modalités de traversée de frontières.
Dans mon enseignement, l’accent mis sur les micro-analyses rejoint l’intérêt que je porte à l’observation et l’exploration – le travail du regard intérieur et extérieur.
Depuis la pandémie, j’ai introduit l’écriture créative en tant qu’exercice régulier, proposant aux étudiants de travailler sur la fiction ou sur des productions non-romanesques.
J’ai publié deux ouvrages de fiction sous le nom de plume Thomas Therese : un recueil de nouvelles intitulé Ombres et murmures (Paris: Publibook Editions, 2018) et un roman « pandémique » intitulé Autopsy of a War (Paris: Publibook Editions, 2020).
Enfin, grâce à mon expérience d’expatriée, le trope de la traversée des frontières informe aussi bien mes travaux académiques que créatifs – d’où les jeux bilingues induits par le choix d’écrire ce poème en prose en anglais et en français.

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