“s&lfies”, by Anne Portugal: the literary soap opera by Tiphaine Samoyault

“s&lfies”, by Anne Portugal, POL, 128 p., €17, digital €12.


The encounter between literate poetry and the selfie can seem as incongruous as that of an umbrella and a sewing machine on a dissecting table. The 5 million selfies posted every day around the world on social media form an inexhaustible corpus of images that only feeds itself: the opposite, therefore, of the modes of dissemination of contemporary poetry. However, what the selfie seeks to capture – beyond the self it depicts – a circumstance, a minimal moment of life, an appearance, a presence-absence, is also what poetry deals with. Anne Portugal proposes to make the selfie a form of poem, with its own rhythm and typographical rules: surrounded by a border, without capital letters or punctuation, the selfie is a poem that is both free and framed.

To stand out from the media and visual practice, Anne Portugal entitles her collection s&lfies, replacing the vowel by this logogram which is nicely called an ampersand, used by medieval writing and which means in Occitan “it is for the and” – today more widespread in English (where it is called ampersand) only in French. More than a sign of distinction, the ampersand refers here to the company: the subject is staged with others and celebrates a moment of friendship. Several « selfie(s) of group “including one in Belle-Ile, bring the bodies together at the risk of causing them to overflow, of not containing them all (“the real is narrow”). A “selfie in front of the pond” allows intruders to appear in the frame, a “train selfie” interposes a pane of glass in the poem and brings together, in a cliché, the sadness of separations (” if you leave “). Many of the fifty-four selfies presented here refer to the first name of the friend included in the self-portrait: “my selfie with lili”, “stone series”, “with michael in an english garden”, “my selfie with rosmarie”, “at niagara falls with olivier”. The absence of capital letters places beings, things, sensitive qualities and places on a graphic and affective continuum, equalizes them. Each of these vignettes is the capture of a moment that connects two or more people and a particular place. It is the banal fixation of a friendly moment, a small memory.

Anne Portugal links the poetic form of selfies to the long tradition of occasional poems, where poetry is inscribed in all circles of sociability.

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