Rimbaud’s prose poems capture the strange space we inhabit: a stillness between utopia and apocalypse, a bored, wavering impatience before the flood. Ashbery’s translation avoids the clunk and flourish of previous versions in favor of recognizing the weirdness of the poems, preserving their crystalline concision and vivid, fantastical images. This book also provides a genealogy of Ashbery’s own poetry, which like Rimbaud, accepts the danger of conveying simple beauty and agency in “this huge city under a sky stained with fire and mud…”
Picked by Michael in Fort Greene
The modernist masterpiece that is Arthur Rimbaud's Illuminations has been given new life with the publication of John Ashbery's dazzling (The Economist) new translation, widely hailed as one of the literary events of the year. Presented with French text in parallel and a preface by its translator, Ashbery's rendering powerfully evokes the glittering, kaleidoscopic beauty of the original.