Occitan poetry  980-2008

by Joan-Frederic Brun


Ives Roqueta (Yves Rouquette) (1936)

Medieval poetry: the kingdom of love
XVI-XVIII century: tasty baroque antiliteratures
XIX th century: toward a renaissance
XIX th century (1854-1914):  spreading and sclerosis of the Provençal miracle
XX th century (1920-1965): the anguish of no future
XX th century (1965-1981): "un país que vòl viure" (a country that just wants to live)
XX th century (1981-2000): postoccitanisme
XXI th century: just a living literature among many other ones? 


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  • L'escriveire public (1958)
  • Lo mal de la tèrra (1958)
  • Roèrgue, si (1968)
  • Òda a Sant Afrodisi (1968)
  • Lo castèl des cans (1977)
  • Messa pels pòrcs (1970)
  • Los negres, siam pas sols(1972)
  • Lo fuòc es al cementèri (1974)
  • Misericòrdia (1986)
  • L'escritura publica o pas (1988), recuèlh de poesia escrich entre 1972 e 1987


  • Lo poèta es una vaca (1967)
  • La paciéncia (1968)
  • Made in France (1970)
  • Lo trabalh de las mans (1977)



Yves Rouquette was born in Sète in 1936, but he always considered that his homeland was southern Rouergue, near Camarès, where he lives nowadays, after having been for long years a literature teacher in Béziers. 

Very young he became the chief-redactor of the leading literary journal in Occitania, "Oc". At this time he was considered by everybody as the most promising Occitan writer of his generation.

In 1965 he was one of the founders of a more pollitically_minded journal: VIURE (to live). That was the time of politically- driven literature and Ives was surely one of the greatest masters of this kind of literature in Occitania. Perhaps he's been the only Occitan writer able to make true poetry with this thematics of revolt.  

His style is absolutely unique, strong, elegant, dazzling. Unfortunately he  did not develop his narrative works to the extent his enthusiastic readers expected and he's mostly known as an author of  powerful, inspired poetry, whose texts really fit with the drama of the collapse of Occitan popular  civilization during the XXth century, and, beyond, the drama of any oppressed culture. All his poetry his a passionate research on the best expressivity of idiomatic Occitan language, a try to make all words swollen with warm life. And, really, he succeeds in reaching this goal.  

The choice presented here-below is made of poems of this period. They come  from "Los negres, siam pas sols " (We, negroes, we're not alone) (1972), the booklet where Rouquette better succeeds in adapting into Occitan poetry the theme of "negritude" inspired by Aimé Césaire and Léopold-Sédar Senghor. Since Occitania is a colony of France, like African or Carribean countries, the poet symbolically considers Occitan people as dark-skinned mankind, living a similar oppression and revolt. This is the period he wrote "Lo miegjorn se vei la pèl negra"  (Southern France is seen with a block skin), in a poem sang by the revolutionary singer Claudi Martí. 

Later, after the breakdown of the Occitan political movement in 1982, Yves Rouquette came to another kind of poetry, forgetting the immediate struggle and the cry of revolt, with the same wonderful style. 

After a long period of silence where he made some efforts to become a French writer, rather unsuccessfully, he comes back to Occitan literature since a couple of years,  with the same magic skill to manage words and emotions, for the greatest pleasure of Occitan readers.  





Tota lenga es la de l’ostal
o pas que bruch sens poder sul silenci.

Las paraulas se daissan menar
al masèl coma aqueles buòus
que vesiás pastencar dins la comba,
bana contra bana, e coma
s’èran juntats pel jo encara.

Revèrtan los mòrts atanben quand la tèrra se los pasta
per los far Dieus un còp per totes.

Mas lor pòdes pas tot demandar. Son çò que siás.





Any language is that of home
or nothing but noise, without any power against silence.
Words let them carry out to the slaughter-house
they look like those oxen you saw
feeding in the valley, with their horns so close as if they were still joined together by the yoke.
They also look like the dead, when the ground kneads them
to change them into gods forever.

But you can't trust on them for everything. They're  what you are.


  • Los negres, siam pas sols(1972)




I'm from here: from the night 
where countries are made 
and where knives are sharpened 
before the tremendous settling of all scores

    In my ragged words  
I'm the foreigner
only for men that have no future

I'm black and my mother was black  
my father was a black and a slave
and amid pink and green 
of my mother's womb 

I hear myself going on to the light.


  • Los negres, siam pas sols(1972)



Evil is done, evil is always done, where we arrive with our papers blackened with poetry: the factory has been closed, men are gone away, the sheep barn falls into ruin, wild boars show their snout in the courtyard and old ladies stay waiting for the postman with his orangy delivery van, and nothing imports any more. 

We're become bookkeepers of defeats and ruins, and we snivel by the wall because we've forgotten that a poem is abulldozer. 


  • Los negres, siam pas sols(1972)




Outside, there is the country. It's not darkness that frightens me, but what's inside of the head of lonely people. 

Inside stone you'll find nothing but stone, and there's nothing to translate from the language of air and leaf, nothing but a bustle of dead stars. 

 But in mankind's country, is living the young fire, and everytime when a lawyer's office resounds with  the lame French speech of a hundred of peasants, there's a poem falling over  the neck of all sellers of wind.  


  • Los negres, siam pas sols(1972)


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