Fortino Sámano (The Overflowing of the Poem)

"Fortino Sámano (The Overflowing of The Poem)," translated by Cynthia Hogue and Sylvain Gallais, with French on facing pages, is a collaborative work by the emerging French poet Virginie Lalucq and the distinguished philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy.

Lalucq wrote the serial poem, "Fortino Sámano," after seeing an exhibit of photographs on the Mexican Revolution by Agustin Victor Casasola. Her series is a meditation on the single, extant photograph of Sámano, a Zapatista lieutenant and counterfeiter, which Casasola snapped as Sámano, smoking a last cigar, appeared to stare death nonchalantly in the face moments before his execution by firing squad (it was reported that he himself gave the order to fire).

Little is known about Sámano, and Lalucq’s poem makes no attempt to be biographical or historical. Rather, she treats the image itself, the fact that the camera caught the image of life just prior to its end. She asks, what, then, does the image represent? Nancy’s section, "Les débordements du poème (The overflowing of the poem)," is a series of poetic commentaries on each of the poems in Lalucq’s series. It is a philosophical contemplation of the specific poem, Fortino Sámano, and also, a poetic investigation of the lyric genre, which works hand-in-hand with Lalucq’s poems.

"Fortino Sámano" is an exciting poetic dialogue, and a significant work in poetics, which Hogue and Gallais have brought into English.


Sylvain Gallais is a faculty member with the School of International Letters and Cultures at Arizona State University.

Cynthia Hogue is professor emeritus in the Department of English at Arizona State University.

Praise for this book

Sylvain Gallais and Cynthia Hogue, simply by bringing attention to this dialogue between two powerful French minds, have performed a remarkable service. That they imbued the English version with a bright vitality, with linguistic energy and intellectual rigor, is even more remarkable. Jean-Luc Nancy’s observation that 'A poem is always, at each moment, a last word with no conclusion' applies as well to a translation as to an 'original,' and this translation is an examination of the power and danger behind powerful images and engaging paradoxes. This is one of the necessary new books.

Bin Ramke Author of "Aerial"