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The Landscapist

Selected Poems

Pierre Martory

Translated by John Ashbery

The Landscapist: Selected Poems
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ISBN: 978 1 847770 00 4
Categories: 20th Century, French, Translation
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: September 2008
216 x 135 x 16 mm
296 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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  • 'After I began translating Pierre Martory, that is, after I began to realize that his marvelous poetry would likely remain unknown unless I translated it and brought it to the attention of readers, I started to find echoes of his work in mine. His dreams, his pessimistic résumés of childhood that are suddenly lanced by a joke, his surreal loves, his strangely lit landscapes with their inquisitive birds and disquieting flora, have been fertile influences for me, though I hope I haven’t stolen anything—well, better to steal than borrow, as Eliot more or less said. All of which may be a way of saying that there is no very easy way to describe Martory’s poetry. It is sui generis and it deserves to be read. And reread.'

    John Ashbery
    John Ashbery’s translations of Pierre Martory’s poems offer a unique insight into the work of the French poet, and into the creative dialogue between two poets. Ashbery describes Martory’s writing as ‘touched by the gaiety of René Clair’s films and the melancholy of Piaf, echoing the witty surrealism of Pierre Reverdy and Raymond Queneau’; in Ashbery’s translations, the distinctive flavour of Martory’s poetry, ‘located somewhere between Paris and New York’, finds its English voice. The Landscapist gathers Ashbery’s published translations, some with emendations, together with uncollected pieces and facing-page French text. With a definitive introductory biographical essay by Ashbery and bibliographies of both the translations and Martory’s publications, The Landscapist is an indispensable introduction to Martory’s poetry and an illuminating addition to Ashbery’s work.

    Cover painting Pierrot and Peonies by Jane Freilicher (collection of Deborah S. Pease; courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York). Cover design by

    Table of Contents
    Introduction by John Ashbery
    Editors' Note

    From Every Question but One

    Retour des oiseaux
    Return of the Birds
    Il est grand temps
    It's High Time
    Lettre recommandée
    Registered Letter

    The Landscape Is behind the Door

    Ma Chandelle est morte
    Ma Chandelle est morte
    Ce que je dis, peut-etre, n'est pas vrai
    What I Say, Perhaps, Isn't True
    Sur le pont Marie
    On the Pont Marie
    Dimanche et fetes
    Sundays and Holidays
    En bas des marches
    At the Bottom of the Steps
    Le Paysage est derrière la porte
    The Landscape Is behind the Door
    Sous l’orme
    Under the Elm
    Un Dimanche à Monfort l’Amaury
    A Sunday in Monfort l’Amaury
    La Cage
    The Cage
    Prose des Buttes-Chaumont
    Prose des Buttes-Chaumont
    Archives indéchiffrables
    Undecipherable Archives
    Dans le ventre de la baleine
    In the Belly of the Whale 5
    Quatorze Millions d’années-lumière
    Fourteen Million Light-Years
    Après l’orage
    After the Storm
    Diamant noir
    Black Diamond
    Lac rouge et noir
    Red and Black Lake
    L’Heure qu’il est
    What Time It Is
    Une Veuve
    A Widow
    Rien à dire
    Nothing to Say
    Trois Petits Poèmes
    Three Little Poems
    Toten Insel
    Toten Insel
    Toutes les questions sauf une
    Every Question but One
    Passant la frontière
    Passing the Frontier
    Une Nuit sur la mer Morte
    A Night on the Dead Sea
    Le Paysagiste
    The Landscapist
    Des Nuits et des corps
    Of Nights and Bodies
    Nocturne américain
    American Nocturne
    Entre elle et moi
    Between Her and Me
    Récitatif et air des larmes
    Recitative and Aria of the Tears

    Oh, lac / Oh, Lake

    Avant, pendant, après
    Before, During, After
    Gestes obscurs
    Obscure Gestures
    Le Rachat
    The Buying Back
    The Crossroads
    Poème chocolat
    Chocolate Poem
    Soirée 161
    Solitude brisée
    Broken Solitude
    Mairie du Quinzième
    Town Hall, Fifteenth Arrondissement
    Coming and Going
    Sans rime ni raison
    Without Rhyme or Reason
    Dix Ans par exemple après
    Ten Years for Example After
    Oh, lac . . .
    Oh, Lake . . .
    D’un domaine privé
    From a Private Domain
    Une Visite
    A Visit

    Uncollected Poems

    Eau calme
    Calm Water
    Petit matin
    Early Morning
    Histoire non naturelle
    Unnatural History
    L’Essentiel d’un visage se lit un jour de gel
    The Main Thing in a Face Can Be Read on a Freezing Day
    Ciel scintillant
    Scintillating Sky
    Les Soirées de Rochefort
    Evenings in Rochefort
    Cause commune
    Common Cause
    Le Père-Lachaise
    Quel enfant?
    What Child?
    Complainte de l’amant
    The Lover’s Complaint

    Appendix I: Translation with Lost French Original
    Bridge Passed

    Appendix II: Poem Written in French and English

    Appendix III: Variant French and English Texts
    L’Heure de musique
    The Hour of Music

    Appendix IV: Bibliography
    Periodical and Anthology Publications for Ashbery
    Translations of Martory Poems
    Previously Unpublished Translations
    Poetry Books and Other Publications by Pierre Martory

    Notes on the Editors

    Pierre Martory
    Pierre Martory was born in Bayonne in 1920 and spent much of his childhood in Morocco. He entered the School of Political Science in Paris in 1939, and in June 1940 escaped from Paris on the last train to leave before the Germans arrived. After a brief stay in prison in ... read more
    John Ashbery
    John Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York, in 1927. His books of poetry include Breezeway ; Quick Question ; Planisphere ; Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems, which was awarded the 2008 International Griffin Poetry Prize; A Worldly Country ; Where Shall I Wander ; and Self-Portrait in ... read more
    Awards won by John Ashbery Winner, 1997  Gold Medal for Poetry Winner, 2001 Wallace Stevens Award Winner, 1995 Robert Frost Medal Winner, 1976 National Book Critics Circle Award (Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror) Winner, 1976 National Book Award (Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror) Winner, 1976 Pulitzer Award (Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror)
    Praise for John Ashbery 'John Ashbery's final collection of poetry disguises itself well as a mid-career high. The energy and modernity of his strange little worlds tell nothing of his age.'
    Stand Magazine

    'A fine collection of poems rooted in 21st-century America.'
    Robert McCrum, The Observer
     'More than a century after Arthur Rimbaud composed his Illuminations they are reborn in John Ashbery’s mangnificent translation. It is fitting that the major American poet since Hart Crane and Wallace Stevens should give us this noble version of the precursor of all three.'
    Harold Bloom
    'Quick Question, with the hushed intensity of its music and great lyric beauty, could only be Ashbery.'
    Ian Thomson, Financial Times
    The book invites the reader to poetic gluttony. It serves as a corrective to the monoglot provincialism by which the Anglophone world is still bedevilled.
    Sean O'€™Brien, Independent
     'The lyrics in Breezeway, a new collection by the octogenarian poet John Ashbery are as good as his finest. I especially like the final poem, poignantly reprising the last line of Keats' Ode to a Nightingale', "Do I wake or sleep?"'
    Salley Vickers, The Observer - The New Review, 29.11.2015.
       'Praised as a magical genius, cursed as an obscure joker, John Ashbery writes poetry like no one else.'
    The Independent
      'Great poetry, as T.S. Eliot said, can communicate before it is understood: Ashbery communicates in a way that both pays homage to language and transcends it at the same time.'
    The Guardian
      'John Ashbery's Collected Poems 1956-1987, edited by Mark Ford (Carcanet), was a book I found inexhaustible. Possibly the greatest living English-speaking poet and one of the most prolific, Ashbery takes language to its limits, so that words serve as pointers to shifting experiences that elude description. Containing his masterpiece 'Self-Portrait In A Convex Mirror', one of the most penetrating 20th-century meditations on what it means to be human, this collection succeeded in stirring my thoughts as well as delighting me.'
    John Gray The Guardian Books Of The Year 2010
     'The language of [John Ashbery's] books is informed by his roving enthusiasms for particular composers. His tastes are both eclectic and out-of-the-way.'
    Michael Glover, 'A blue rinse for the language,' The Independent, 13 November, 1999
       'The careering, centrifugal side of Girls on the Run is one of its most effective tools in creating its special ainbience of good-humoured menace ... Ashbery has made the slush of signification, the realm where words slip, slide, perish and decay, uniquely his own.'
    David Wheatley, Times Literary Supplement, 30 June, 2000
       'In his seventies John Ashbery offers a sprightly and energetic alternative. Instead of being sluggish he demands that the self must be even more alert, more vigilant, more attentive to the world around it, not indifferent to and weary of it. Alert, vigilant, attentive ... Wakefulness, the brilliantly evocative title of Ashbery's collection.'
    Stephen Matterson, 'The Capacious Art of Poetry,' Poetry Ireland Review 62, 114
       'Harold Bloom regards [John Ashbery] as something akin to a genius...' -
    Michael Glover, 'The poet as frustrated composer,' Book and Poetry Review section, The Independent, 14 August, 1998
       '...Ashbery is still exuberantly dedicated to the truthful rendering of experience as a flow of sensations that defy interpretation. Consciousness is not so much a stream as a series of jump-cuts from one haunting or zany impression to the next. His best poems have a weirdly, intriguingly satisfying quality.'
    Alan Brownjohn, 'Creating a sensation,' Book and Poetry Review section, The Sunday Times, 10 January, 1999
        'Stemming in part from Mallarme and in part from Whitman, Ashbery's work creates a tension in which the fine networks of linguistic reverie are balanced by the strong sense of American tradition.'
    Peter Ackroyd, 'Books of the Year,' The Times Literary Supplement, 4 December, 1992
        ' Ashbery [poem] does not stand on its own but floats off into the reader's limitless consciousness like a balloon. Balloons can be very beautiful, inspire longing and also make you smile.'
    Grey Gowrie, 'Where the commonplace is wonderful,' Book and Poetry Review section, The Daily Telegraph, 5 October, 1996
        'John Ashbery's distinctiveness as a poet paradoxically resides in his ability to evade all single identities; like Whitman, he feels most fully himself when he contains multitudes ... [Ashbery] deploys a staggering variety of dictions, ranging from fragments of novelettish narratives to lyrical dream-visions, from the cliché of public speech to scraps of surrealist collage...'
    Mark Ford, 'Free-wheeling towards the abyss,' Times Literary Supplement, 27 December, 1991
       'Notoriously hard to characterise, Ashbery's poetry has been likened to many things - a spiritual experience or an animated cartoon ... No poet's lines are more accommodating to other voices and idioms ... Like restless guests, his subjects arrive and mingle, don unlikely disguises and abruptly announce they are "off on some expedition"...Such poise lends authority to his "positive melancholy," makes even his excesses ... masterly, and ensures that The Ashbery remains the destination of choice, the place "where everything gets unravelled just right."'
    Julian Loose, Book and Poetry Review section, The Guardian, 3 November, 1992
        'The Mooring of Starting Out is filled with illustrations glimpsed through luminous, funny, formidably intelligent and often heartbreaking poems.'
    Andrew Zawacki, 'A wave of music,' Times Literary Supplement, 12 June, 1998
       'John Ashbery is probably the most highly regarded living poet in America ... The "story" element in Ashbery comes over in fragmented and non-consequential ways, but the fragments have a strong power of visual evocation, and a startling precision of outline ... His focus is on a bravura artifice, a depersonalised surface crackling with "possibility," a brilliant randomness in which analogy with Action Painting asserts itself with special force...'
    Claude Rawson, 'A poet in the postmodern playground,' Times Literary Supplement, 4 July, 1986

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Cover of Selected Prose
Selected Prose John Ashbery,
Edited by Eugene Richie
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