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Illuminations

Arthur Rimbaud

Translated by John Ashbery

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RRP: GBP 12.95
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Price: GBP 11.65
Out of Print
Paperback
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
Also available in: Paperback
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  • 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.
    Arthur Rimbaud
    Arthur Rimbaud (1854–1891) was born in Charleville, Ardennes. His creativity coincided with his turbulent relationship with Paul Verlaine in his late teens. All his poetry was written before he was 21. He gave up writing and began to travel, spending 11 years in the port town Aden in Abyssinia (Yemen). Ill, ... 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)
     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 Ashbery's magnificent 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
    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
    '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.
      '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 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
        '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
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