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Collected French Translations: Poetry

John Ashbery and Rosanne Wasserman, edited by Eugene Richie | April 8, 2014

Collected French Translations: Poetry, half of a long-awaited two-volume collection of translations by America’s foremost living poet, surveys John Ashbery’s lifelong love of French poetry. Beginning in 1955, Ashbery spent nearly a decade in France, working as an art critic in Paris and forming a relationship with the poet Pierre Martory. His translations of Martory’s poems, featured here, were collected in The Landscapist, a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation in 2008 and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry.

In this volume, Ashbery presents a wide selection of France’s finest poets: Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, Arthur Rimbaud, Max Jacob, Pierre Reverdy, Paul Éluard, and its greatest living poet, Yves Bonnefoy. A rich array of 171 poems by twenty-four poets, this bilingual volume also features a selection from Ashbery’s masterly translation of Rimbaud’s Illuminations. The development of modern French poetry emerges through Ashbery’s chronology, as does the depth of French influences on his iconoclastic career and the poets of the New York School. Collected together for the first time, Ashbery’s translations represent decades of remarkable work from the writer hailed by Harold Bloom as a part of the "American sequence that includes Whitman, Dickinson, Stevens, and Hart Crane."

“Meticulously faithful yet nimbly inventive . . . We are fortunate that John Ashbery has . . . brought to it such care and imaginative resourcefulness.” — Lydia Davis, New York Times Book Review

John Ashbery’s latest book of poems is Quick Question. From 1960 to 1965, he was the International Herald Tribune art critic and the ARTnews Paris correspondent. France has named him a Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres and an Officier de la Légion d’honneur. He has received a National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and was awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Obama.

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