The Present Hour

Written by Yves Bonnefoy, translated by Beverly Bie Brahic | November 15, 2013
The Present Hour, by Yves Bonnefoy, translated by Beverly Bie Brahic, Seagull Books, November 2013

The Present Hour, Yves Bonnefoy’s latest book of poetry, is a fragmented personal narrative. Every word from Bonnefoy is multifaceted, like  figures seen from different angles in a cubist painting—as befits a poet who has written extensively about artists such as Goya, Picasso, Braque, and Gris. Throughout this moving collection, Bonnefoy’s poems echo each other, returning to and elaborating upon key images, thoughts, feelings, and people. Intriguing and enigmatic, this mixture of sonnet sequences and prose poems—or, as Bonnefoy sees them, “dream texts”—move from his meditations on friendship and friends like Jorge Luis Borges to a long, discursive work in free verse that is a self-reflection on his thought and process. These poems are the ultimate condensation of Bonnefoy’s ninety years of life and writing and they will be a valuable addition to the canon of his writings available in English.

“Beverley Bie Brahic does a splendid job of translating the latest work of Yves Bonnefoy. She catches his unique combination of human detail and a groping for the beyond. . . . Brahic does full justice to the profoundly moving text—with its frequent shifts between the personal and the searchingly philosophical.”—Joseph Frank, author of Responses to Modernity: Essays in the Politics of Culture

“Yves Bonnefoy’s poems, prose, texts, and penetrating essays have never ceased to stimulate both the writing of French poetry and the discussion of what its deepest purpose should be. . . [He] is one of the rare contemporary authors for whom writing does not—or should not—conclude in utter despair, but rather in the tendering of hope.” —John Taylor, France Magazine

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Yves Bonnefoy is a poet, critic and professor emeritus of comparative poetics at the Collège de France. In addition to poetry and literary criticism, he has published numerous works of art history and translated into French several of Shakespeare’s plays.

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