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Jean Follain

130 Poems

Jean Follain

Translated by Christopher Middleton

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Imprint: Anvil Press Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (176 pages)
(Pub. Nov 2010)
£11.95 £10.75
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    The Inventor of the Printing Press

    for Pierre-Albert Birot

    He held between two irritable fingers
    close to the white window glass
    the very first
    movable character.
    It was one of those icy days
    when the grasses stiffen
    no longer to bend on the islands,
    a wild duck was flying at the zenith
    and close to the snuffed candles
    the fathomless new press,
    its composition shaky still,
    was going for the first time
    to be sweetly seized
    by the wild shadows of an evening.
    The little people knew nothing yet,
    nor did the mothers, nor the Emperor,
    nor the miser
    and just like now
    in broad day before nightfall
    everyone was searching
    for a part to play.

    Translated by Christopher Middleton

    The poetry of Jean Follain (1903–1971) is increasingly recognized, by French poets and critics and by his foreign admirers, as central to French poetry’s change of course after the Surrealist period. The poet and novelist Henri Thomas wrote of Follain as one of the poets‘qui parle d’autre chose’, rather than of himself; he admired Follain as a poet remarkably free of rhetoric. Follain’s short, down-
    to-earth, subtle poems have influenced a new generation of French poets. To anyone who still believes that modern French poetry is abstruse and over-cerebral, Follain’s delightful and memorable poems are the answer.

    Christopher Middleton, the leading poet and translator, has chosen poems spanning Follain’s writing life, from La Main chaude (1933) to Espaces d’instants (1971). He has written an illuminating introduction to his elegant translations.

    Jean Follain
    Jean Follain was born in Canisy, Normandy in 1903. He studied law at Caen and in Paris, passing his bar exams in 1927 before entering legal practice. In 1951 he was appointed an Assize Judge for the Ardennes region. He continued to live in Paris until his death in a street ... read more
    Christopher Middleton
    Christopher Middleton, born in Cornwall in 1926, is a poet and translator, especially of German literature. He studied at Merton College, Oxford and held academic positions at the University of Zürich and King’s College London before becoming Professor of Germanic Languages at the University of Texas, Austin. He retired in ... read more
    Awards won by Jean Follain Short-listed, 2011 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize (Jean Follain)
    Praise for Christopher Middleton '€˜a poet with a disconcerting knack of making it new in almost every poem'
    John Lucas, New Statesman
    '€˜His work is at once rich and sparse, elegantly economic in its subtle shifts from discrete object to discrete object, yet, by contrast with mainstream English realism, striking for the boldness and brio of its imaginings.'
    Terry Eagleton, Stand
    'Metrically inventive and various, these poems are remarkably alive to "€œthe unknown thing beside us"€, they listen for "the due sound"€, and, as if watching birds, register "€œthe timed flight of words". A motto for reading Middleton'€™s work might be: purify the source, then trust to luck.'
    Denis Donoghue, London Review of Books
    'Middleton is amongst the most consistently inventive, original, and audacious of the so-called '€˜experimental' or '€˜innovative'€™ poets of these past twenty-five years.'
    August Kleinzahler, Threepenny Review
    'The poet's ancestry, his Englishness, is relegated without denial. But the movement, whether it is generated in America, Provence or Cappadocia, is always of encounter...if an eroticism, with the inner and the outer, a profound in-touchness with the multiplicities of existence... a mark of all important poets'
    Tom Lowenstein
    'Poems, translations, essays -€“ Christopher Middleton’s are among the most visited books on my shelves; always dependable for re-exciting the possibilities of language.'
    Jennie Feldman

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