On Reading Flaubert’s Madame Bovary: Fragments

Sta viator. Stop traveler.
Amabilen conjugem calcas.
Tread upon a loving wife.

“I’ve never read it myself.”
“Tell me.”

On an island
a mahogany bed
shaped like a boat

The extraordinary in
the ordinary: love
in language

Flaubert writing Emma,
who’s trapped
in a familiar broken cauldron

The ordinary in
the extraordinary: language
in love

Only lies of happiness
and unhappiness
(I read it after all)
meet expectations

I am the girl –
the book is the wolf –
believe me

image prompt: sunday muse
Shay/Fireblossom's The Sunday Muse, weekly picture poetry prompt
Laura at dVerse: "write a Modernist/Post-Modernist Fragment poem"
Sammi's Weekend Writing Prompt, 79 words, "familiar"
Punam's RDP Saturday: "the extraordinary in the ordinary"

73 thoughts on “On Reading Flaubert’s Madame Bovary: Fragments

    1. Ain Starlingsson, forestbathing hermit

      Really like that dipping in and dipping out, the allusions, and the almost reckless casual ‘asides’ (I read it after all), except they are not reckless at all, and the reader realises they are being guided through a deceptively clever woven path. How does one keep strands going like this, of fragments, views, comments, while remaining so literary and coherent? Masterful — this is written to be read…thus the wonderful ending, putting all into question. I can delve back into this and find more each time — I have seen that in one or two poems here, and I find that fascinating.


    2. Thank you so much, Ain. I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment so generously. What bubbles to the surface in response to prompts like this is a little like having a lucid dream. And sometimes it works and I’m so glad you enjoyed it enough to say so. Thank you again.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. fireblossom32

    I adore this. It has been forty-odd years since I read Madame Bovary, so my recollection is down to the main bones of the story, but this is right on. You–and Darius–have shamed me for coming up with flat nothing for the fragments prompt, as this aces the idea. I can only admire how you did that and kept to the framework of the prompt without lapsing into incoherence. Well done, lady.

    I really like the ending. I notice there is no period at the end–or anywhere after the first two fragments–and I like that, it makes it seem that the book, as wolf, and the speaker are not done with each other yet. I just like everything about this.


    1. It was flat nothing for me until I saw your picture prompt and then it just seemed to tie together with what I’d been thinking about anyway. Fragments seem to imply a kind of present participle, ongoing incompleteness to me anyway. Loved your catching that. Thank you, Shay, for your affirmation. I’ve got to go check out Darius’ post now. :>)

      Liked by 2 people

    2. fireblossom32

      Hey…I scrounged up a subscribe gadget and put it at the tippy top of my sidebar, on the right. I have no idea if it works or not, but it is there. 🙂


  2. Shawna

    “I am the girl –
    the book is the wolf –
    believe me”

    Okay, that right there is an entire, meaty poem—and a brilliant book review. I need nothing more than to know that a book devoured YOU. What a perfect recommendation.

    I actually have the book and have started it, but I’ve never gotten very far in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol, book review! Thank you for those generous comments. Tbh, Shawna, the best novel of that genre I’ve ever read is Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. It’s mega-thick and it looks defeating. But it reads fast and furious, once you get past the confusion of Russian names. Which you will. Fuggetabout Flaubert. Grab yon Tolstoy. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is gorgeous, Dora! I love the fragmented style of this, it suits it so well and really lends it such a lean minimalist style that enhances the images. I haven’t read the book so on first reading, this poem is rather mysterious but I love these stanzas:

    “On an island
    a mahogany bed
    shaped like a boat.”

    “I am the girl –
    the book is the wolf –
    believe me.”


  4. wyndolynne

    I read MB in college, probably before I was ready for it. This poem suggests that I should go back (carefully?) and see what lurks there now. Excellent lure and warning.


    1. Thank you, W., so glad you liked it enough to want to go back and re-read, but honestly I would suggest Anna Karenina, especially if you haven’t read it before. It is far superior and, once you get used to the Russian names, far more entertaining. Thick as it is, Tolstoy carries you along swiftly and rewardingly. 🙂


  5. Books are the wolves we run with, those of us who find the articulation of ideas and the light of the heart a path through the dark woods. I especially appreciate the way you’ve kept this fragmentary, yet distilled and potent in each stanza with a solid center beneath–not easy to do. The opening stanza just floored me. And the premise of love and its spoken and unspoken lies/truths being so central to our happiness…well I could babble on, but I will control myself and just say I really loved this, and it made me remember the girl I was when I read Flaubert.


    1. That opening quote from Flaubert has been translated many ways, (including: “Stop traveler. Tread upon a loving wife.”) It makes you wonder what’s been lost in translation by way of the French as well. Thank you, Joy, for your affirming comments. So very much appreciated.


    1. It is rather. Not MB, it’s actually a salutary tale. But Flaubert has Emma blaming the unreal expectations raised by the romance books she used to read, misleading lies, lies about what happiness is and the impermanence of giddy drama and desire, which end up more stale/banal than her marriage.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You wrote, and please know, I read. Though these days, I’m nearly blind of eye, and debilitatingly arthritic of fingers — I placed this prepared comment here as an ongoing thank you for sharing your words. I am grateful to be able to visit , and I will do so as long as I am able. I appreciate you opening your soul, Dora.


    1. Appreciate your incredibly affirming words, Rob. Thank you for taking the time to read. It means all the more given the difficulties, and I have my own to wrestle with so I know how it feels. 💙


    1. I decided to start reading old books at random from my bookshelves – read and pass them on 😉 . This one I took from my mother’s house eons ago – you can smell the humidity in its pages – am I weird that I love it? (it was in the basement!) Rumer Godden’s Five for Sorrow, Ten for Joy. And on the Audible to keep me company on my walks, Ann Prachett’s These Precious Days


    2. They both are! The Godden book is not as old as I thought (1979) 😉. The Patchett one is her latest – it’s a series of essays. Truly enjoyable.


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