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Francis Jean Gaston Alfred Ponge (27 March 1899 - 6 August 1988) was a Frenchmarker essayist and poet. In many ways, he combined the two — essay and poem — into a single artform.


Francis Ponge was born in Montpelliermarker, Francemarker, in 1899. He studied law at Parismarker and literature at Strasbourgmarker. He worked as an editor and journalist in France during the First World War, made contacts with the Surrealist movement, and joined the Communist Party in 1937, leaving the party after World War II in 1947. After living briefly in Algeriamarker, he returned to France, where he held a professorship at the Alliance Française from 1952 until 1965. In 1974, he was awarded the Books Abroad/Neustadt International Prize for Literature, following a favorable article on his works by Sartre.

He died in 1988 in Le Bar-sur-Loupmarker.


In his most famous work, Le parti pris des choses (Often translated The Voice of Things), he meticulously described common things such as oranges, potatoes and cigarettes in a poetic voice, but with a personal style and paragraph form (prose poem) much like an essay. These poems owe much to the work of the French Renaissance poet Remy Belleau. Ponge avoided appeals to emotion and symbolism, and instead sought to minutely recreate the world of experience of everyday objects. His work is often associated with the philosophy of Phenomenology.

He described his own works as "a description-definition-literary artwork" which avoided both the drabness of a dictionary and the inadequacy of poetry.


  • Le Parti pris des choses (1942)
  • Proêmes (1948)
  • La Rage de l'expression (1952)
  • Le Grand Recueil (I. "Méthodes", 1961 ; II. "Lyres", 1961 ; III "Pièces", 1962)
  • Pour un Malherbe (1965)
  • Le Savon (1967).
  • Interviews with Philippe Sollers (1970).
  • La Fabrique du Pré (1971).
  • Comment une figue de parole et pourquoi (1977)
  • Pages d'atelier, 1917-1982, Gallimard, Paris, 2005

Commentaries on Ponge

  • Jacques Derrida, in his essay, "Psyche: Inventions of the Other," minutely analyzes Ponge's poem, "Fable." [107965]
  • Jacques Derrida, in his book Signeponge-Signsponge, English translation by Richard Rand, Columbia University Press, 1984.
  • Philippe Sollers, in his essay Francis Ponge, Seghers éditions, Paris, 2001.
  • Annick Fritz-Smead, Francis Ponge: De L'Ecriture a L'Oeuvre, Peter Lang Publishing, 1997.
  • Marco Nuti, Au Pays des Mots. Francis Ponge et l’inaperçu du réel, LED Edizioni Universitarie, Milano, 2009, ISBN 978-88-7916-417-7

John Taylor, in "The Lure of Things (Francis Ponge)", 'Paths to Contemporary French Literature', volume 2, by John Taylor, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2007, pp. 121-123.

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