Every Minute Is First

Selected Late Poems

“Gladding’s translation, visceral yet clear as glass, renders each poem as a lucid pane into a world that is eternally dissolving, eternally becoming, a world that ‘doesn’t refuse / to be broken like fresh bread.’” —MICHAEL BAZZETT
Select Format

A penetrating and encompassing English-language translation from the celebrated French poet touching on death, domesticity, nature, language itself, and—always—the body.

French literary icon Marie-Claire Bancquart (1932–2019) is known for an uncanny inhabitation of the concrete, finding whole worlds, even afterlives, in daily instances and spaces. “If I could seize a little nothing / a bit of nothing,” she muses, “all things would come to me / those that dance / in its cloth.” The tiniest moments can be acts of utterance, defiance, communion, and immortality. Yet death does indeed appear in the everyday, though it’s more than a fact of existence. It is fiction as well, small cunning stories we create so we’re not merely waiting for it: “one sets / close by / the pot of orange flowers / the here and now / to block the view.”

Here, the infinitesimal has no end; the smaller life gets, the deeper and more carefully Bancquart has us pause to notice its offerings. Though for her “the body” is the surest, most trustworthy way of knowing, the mystery of language is often referenced, and reverenced. And translator Jody Gladding, an award-winning poet herself, beautifully carries forward Bancquart’s lifetime of distinctive work. Every Minute Is First is lean, lucid yet philosophical poetry, reflecting visceral life and experiential thought, walking in the dark with a light, lighting words—or alighting on them—in their own incandescent power to make the long-lived journey meaningful.


This work received support for excellence in publication and translation from Albertine Translation, formerly French Voices, a program created by Villa Albertine.

Publish Date
8.5 × 5.5 × 0.75 in
6.8 oz

Marie-Claire Bancquart

Marie-Claire Bancquart (1932–2019) is the author of Every Minute Is First and more than thirty other collections of poetry and several novels. In her lifetime she was the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Prix Supervielle, the Prix Max Jacob, and the Prix Robert Ganzo.


Jody Gladding

Jody Gladding is a poet and translator. She has published five full collections of poems: I entered without words, the spiders   my arms, Translations from Bark Beetle, Rooms and Their Airs, and Stone Crop.

Praise and Prizes

  • “In Marie-Claire Bancquart’s Every Minute Is First, endlessness goes inward. We encounter—via images of ants and leaves, lungs breathing, a bar of white soap—the infinite divisibility of time, of daily life, the transitory nature of our bones and skin. Gladding’s translation, visceral yet clear as glass, renders each poem as a lucid pane into a world that is eternally dissolving, eternally becoming, a world that ‘doesn’t refuse / to be broken like fresh bread.’ This collection brought me, again and again, to the place where eternity touches the body, a cleansed and renewed here and now, leaving me with the keen sense (and life-affirming reminder) that being able-bodied is a temporary state for all of us.”

    Michael Bazzett
    author of The Echo Chamber and translator of The Popol Vuh
  • “[In Every Minute Is First,] we instantly sense the connection between the human physical and the world around us, and it is both taut and trembling. […] We don’t need to know the reference to the sparkle of the Eiffel Tower for it is all left open: ‘Go change.’ Gladding points out Bancquart’s practice and poem about living lightly. Even as we are cognizant of the poet’s learning—and ours—that death isn’t easy, we learn to know why every minute is indeed the first. How ‘absolute / a moment!’”

    Mary Ann Caws
    editor of The Yale Anthology of 20th Century French Poetry
  • “Celebrated poet Marie-Claire Bancquart meditates on the micro, everyday moments that veer toward immortality, but also death, in this poetic account of a life lived viscerally.”

    Words Without Borders