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Translated by John Ashbery
ISBN: 978 1 847771 41 4
Categories: 19th Century, French, Gay and Lesbian, Translation
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: June 2011
216 x 135 x 14 mm
Publisher: Carcanet Press
What cities they are! This is a people for whom these Alleghenies and Lebanons of dreams arose! Chalets of crystal and wood that move along invisible rails and pulleys. Ancient craters ringed by colossi and copper palm trees roar melodiously amid the flames. Love feasts echo along canals suspended behind the chalets. The carillons’ hunting party halloos in the gorges.
from ‘Cities’ (II)
Arthur Rimbaud’s Illuminations, first published in 1886, changed the language of poetry; in John Ashbery the book has a translator whose virtuosic originality brings Rimbaud’s visions to life in English. The ‘crystalline jumble’ of Illuminations, John Ashbery writes, is still emitting pulses of energy. ‘If we are absolutely modern – and we are – it’s because Rimbaud commanded us to be.’
Ashbery’s translation relays the kaleidoscopic dazzle of the original, a Splendide Hotel ‘built amid the tangled heap of ice floes and the polar night’, where the Witch ‘will never want to tell us what she knows, and which we do not know’.
Cover photograph: Constant Alexandre Famin, Fontainebleau (ca. 1864). Albumen print from glass negative, 13.25 x 10 inches.
Watch a video of John Ashbery discussing and reading from his translation of Illuminations:
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)
One of the strongest, most exuberant and closely engaged translations of Rimbaud's work. - Guardian, 2011 It is always a pleasure to have the extraordinary poetry of Arthur Rimbaud, teenage prodigy and (in later life) gun-runner, rendered anew into English: this version of the late poem cycle Illuminations translated by the American poet John Ashbery, is vertiginous, exhilarating and mildly hallucinogenic. - Michael Glover, The Tablet Arthur Rimbaud, the 19th-century French poet, was a ferocious malcontent, who free-wheeled towards self-destruction with the help of hashish and quantities of alcohol. Rimbaud's most thouroughly modern masterpiece, Illuminations, is now translated by John Ashbury, who brilliantly captures the volume's dizzy-making, metropolitan imagery of subways, viaducts, raised canals and bridges. - Ian Thompson, The Spectator, Books of the Year 'More than a century after Arthur Rimbaud composed his Illuminations they are reborn in John Ashberyâs 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.'
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.'
'A fine collection of poems rooted in 21st-century America.'
Robert McCrum, The Observer
'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.'
'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.'
'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
'...an 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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