Tuesday, January 18, 2011


"If we are absolutely modern—and we are—it's because Rimbaud commanded us to be."—John Ashbery


  1. Rimbaud has always been a poet that I feel like I have missed. I have read several translations of some of his poems, although never a complete collection. Yet, I feel as though the translator is only almost getting it. I don't speak or read French, but the translations seem to be just on the edge of an absolutely stunning poem, but its as though they left a word or two out of each line. Is this just Rimbaud, or the translations I have been reading? Or am I expecting so much from a Rimbaud poem based on his life that I continually find his poetry to be one or two words short of brilliant? (Either way, I think the poems are quite amazing) Let me rephrase: I don't think the poems are short of brilliant, but more so that each poem is teasing on the edge of some terrace of language where it threatens to jump, but turns to the next sentence or line before I can see whether it went through with it or not. Perhaps this is just Rimbaud, although it seems more likely to me it has been the translations. I guess I could just learn French, it would solve the whole mystery.

    I have never read Ashbery's. Perhaps I should.

  2. Well, this widely anticipated translation isn't out until April, I think. Much of the reason it's so widely anticipated is because Rimbaud's work has never really been done justice in our language. Ashbery, a prominent figure of the new york school and ex pat in france is widely regarded as our greatest living poet (in the anglo canon/tradition) So it's two heavyweights. Rimbaud--who invented every modern style (particularly surrealism) and ashbery, who's been working in rimbaud's style

  3. Rimbaud is a case of strong poetry, the sort of poet and poetry that influences generations. We can speculate as to the reason, but it'd be a waste of time. It just simply is that Rimbaud is inflected in almost every poet today. But yes, he is in need of a great translation. Like when we think of Sappho we sometimes think of Anne Carson. It would be great for Ashbery. Also Norton is doing a special edition, signed (by Rimbaud and Ashbery haha) for 250.00 I'm going to have to do some robbing this month.