"If we are absolutely modern—and we are—it's because Rimbaud
commanded us to be."—John Ashbery, from the preface
First published in 1886, Arthur Rimbaud’s Illuminations―the work of a poet who had abandoned poetry before the age of twenty-one―changed the language of poetry. Hallucinatory and feverishly hermetic, it is an acknowledged masterpiece of world literature, still unrivaled for its haunting blend of sensuous detail and otherworldly astonishment. In Ashbery's translation of this notoriously elusive text, the acclaimed poet and translator lends his inimitable voice to a venerated classic.
W. H. Auden recognized the strong affinities between Ashbery's poetry and Rimbaud's Illuminations in his 1956 introduction to Ashbery's first book, Some Trees, noting that "the imaginative life of the human individual stubbornly continues to live by the old magical notions." And it is here, in the "crystalline jumble" and "disordered collection of magic lantern slides" of Illuminations, as Ashbery writes in the Preface, that we can rediscover this essential lineage. "Absolute modernity" was for Rimbaud "acknowledging the simultaneity of all of life, the condition that nourishes poetry at every second. [...] If we are absolutely modern―and we are―it's because Rimbaud commanded us to be."
Ashbery's idiomatic and lyrical translations of these forty-four texts convey the originality of Rimbaud's vision to English-speaking readers of a new century.
- May 2011
- 5.9 × 8.6 in
/ 176 pages
- Territory Rights: Worldwide including Canada, but excluding the British Commonwealth.
Slipcased and Numbered Limited Edition / Hardcover
Endorsements & Reviews
“John Ashbery has gifted us with an exquisite, untainted translation of Rimbaud; a transmission as pure as a winged dove driven by snow.” — Patti Smith
“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
“This is the book that made poetry modern, and John Ashbery's sizzling new translation lets Rimbaud's eerie grandeur burst into English. Finally we have the key to open the door onto these magic Illuminations, and all their 'elegance, knowledge, violence!' This is an essential volume, a true classic.” — J. D. McClatchy
“To translate from one language into another is to risk losing the force, the soul, of the original. But not in this instance of John Ashberry's splendid version of Rimbaud's Illuminations. "Wise music is missing from our desire," he writes in his English version of the last line of "Conte" ("Tale"), losing neither the substance nor the truth of Rimbaud's great poetry.” — Paula Fox, author of Desperate Characters
“A marriage divine.” — Joy Williams, author of State of Grace
"A faithful rendering that is simultaneously an original and gripping poem in its own right." —New York Times Book ReviewMore
"Superb...the single best work to read about this haunting and haunted poet."—Richard Howard, New York Times Book ReviewMore