Born in Rostrenen in 1940, Danielle Collobert left Bretagne for Paris at the age of eighteen where she self-published her first poems in a book entitled Chants des guerres (1961). She worked for Révolution africaine, a short-lived journal created at the end of the Algerian war. Collobert's extensive travels around the globe did not prevent her from becoming a member of the group formed around Jean-Pierre Faye and the journal, Change. Danielle Collobert took her own life in a hotel in Paris on her thirty-eighth birthday. Her complete works, in two volumes, edited by Françoise Morvan, augmented by several unpublished texts, were published by P.O.L. in 2005.
Norma Cole is a poet, painter and translator. Her recent poetry publications include Natural Light (Libellum, 2009) and Win These Posters and Other Unrelated Prizes Inside (Omnidawn Publishing, 2010). Cole has been the recipient of a Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation Award, Gertrude Stein Awards, as well as awards from The Fund for Poetry. She teaches in the Bay area and previously served on the faculty of the MFA program at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Canadian by birth, Cole migrated via France to San Francisco where she has lived since 1977.
In Danielle Collobert’s Notebooks the urgency of her writing is accompanied by the weight of hindsight—that we know how it ends—and yet it is not stifled by morbidity. Instead, the intensity and integrity of her struggles rise to the surface. Collobert’s questions—of presence in the world, of politics and intimacy—are constantly recovered from the blur of experience. Collobert moves towards and away in a feverish attempt to connect, stay connected—whether in her personal encounters, moments of activism or writing—and though she ultimately chooses death, there is enough life in her writing to carry on: ‘the hum of life all around..I open/ and I close.'
Beyond everything she had discovered her own utter nakedness: that owned by nights of relentless attention to the other, or reflected in mirrors of all-night cafes where you can look, listen or simply wait, attending the blank page, from which the lassitude of daybreak will rescue you, overwhelm you.
She enunciates the words for desire and for loss of the other words with harrowing intensity… [and] explores the limits of the phenomenal body and of speech by the agency of a prose which defies category.
from 1961, September
Tonight I’m starting over – after these parenthetical months – for them – go real slow – like the first time going out after being locked up for ages – tonight calm at last – window open – a little wind – gentle – feeling my bathrobe – music below – I just picked up K.’s journal – always the way to get back to work when it’s not happening – Kafka or Beckett – to start up again – nothing is finished – the problem hasn’t been resolved – but I’m at the end of my rope – still struggling with it – because it would be easier to keep going with them than pick up my life where it left off – these months speak years – many new things – to be completely current with present events – living the news as it happens – with no time lag – now it’s difficult to become nothing but a spectator again – what counted was the immediate – objective justification was impossible – for what I was doing – theoretical questions useless – when I make theory for others – I end up not believing it – immediate action justified immediately in its entirety – uncomfortable position but real – for months no writing – impossible to reconcile the two – walk paying attention – I’ve lost sensation – closeness of the outside world around me – I’m not connecting with things any more – could be irreparable loss – trying now to recover sensations – objects for instance – the table’s smoothness – its color – my hand on the paper – it’s raining – that helps me – I feel better – more differentiated from things – from the outside – blur already –