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Seeing with Words.

Yves Bonnefoy and the Seicento.


Published to Accompany Yves Bonnefoy’s Fortnightly essay The Seicento and the Cult of Images.

ROME, 2005: EVENTS have been organized in Yves Bonnefoy’s honour—at the Campidoglio, the Villa Medici, the Sapienza. We glimpse each other now and then amid the crowds; but in the margins, we chat at length—over meals, in the lobby of his hotel, or walking through the streets, as so often in the past. I am translating his book of poems, The Curved Planks, and we stray down tortuous paths, through many shades of meaning, whether in English or in French. We change the subject, come up for air, and I tell him I’d like to translate his works on seventeenth century art: his book on the Roman Baroque, his lengthy essay on Seicento painting, and his various studies of Elsheimer and Poussin.

‘It won’t be easy to find a publisher,’ Bonnefoy warns. ‘My approach to art is hardly typical of “Anglo-Saxons.”’

‘So much the better,’ I answer; ‘we all see differently, just as we all write differently—why not add fuel to the fire?’

Ut pictura poesis,’ he jests.

‘Or,’ I reply, ‘ut poesis pictura.’ Cordially, Bonnefoy always encouraged his younger friends to state their views, however wrong-headed. ‘Italy,’ he once averred, ‘spurs us to be clear.’


NOTE: In The Fortnightly’s online template, illustrations are thumbnails with captions or onward text links embedded. To enlarge an illustration, click on it. To read a caption, hover over the illustration. 

A CELEBRATED DICTUM from the Ars Poetica of Horace, ‘ut pictura poesis’ (‘as is painting, so is poetry’), has guided writers for centuries. It has generally been interpreted to mean that they should offer the reader portrayals as pungent and lifelike as those of the visual arts. In Bonnefoy’s oeuvre, there are many instances of the broad precept Horace recommends. In Massachusetts, he observes the tracks of a chipmunk in the snow outside his door; in England, he watches a woman lovingly push her husband’s wheelchair; in Germany, he walks along a country road, noting the soft colours of spring; in Sweden, he witnesses a lightning bolt, as it strikes a cluster of megaliths; in California, he surveys the outlandish floats and balloons of a parade, bathed by golden light; or remembering the provincial France of his childhood, he movingly recalls every nook and cranny of the houses where he grew up.

With equal virtuosity, he has often employed the literary device known as ekphrasis. In his poetry in verse and prose, as well as in his critical writings—aptly called ‘une poésie critique’—he has evoked countless works of art, from the tombs of Ravenna to paintings by Constable, Hopper, or Jacques Truphémus. Yet properly speaking, ekphrasis is the detailed reproduction of an artwork in words; the archetypal example is Homer’s description of the shield of Achilles in the Iliad. Bonnefoy goes one step further: he incorporates paintings into his poems as though he had created the images himself. He becomes the artist; he experiences the work from within. In a sense, he fuses with both the painter and his visual universe, turning the ancient precept upside-down: ‘ut poesis pintura.’ As he reinvents the artwork and endows it with new meanings, he seems to perceive its hidden essence through his words, painting it as an image beyond the image.

Even when Bonnefoy analyses a painting, a sculpture, or a church façade, he is also writing about poetry.

Though he was fascinated by art in all its phases, there can be no doubt that the Italian Renaissance was his first love, as he explains in his spiritual autobiography of 1972, L’Arrière-pays. From there he moved on naturally to its prolongation in the Baroque, the subject of the lion’s share of his art criticism. Already in 1971, Bonnefoy had published a book on the Italian Baroque: Rome, 1630 (subtitled The Horizon of the Early Baroque). The new edition issued by Seagull Books in 2020 includes five further essays on the Seicento, focusing particularly on Adam Elsheimer and Nicolas Poussin. On one level, these works are about the history of art. But on another—to paraphrase Roger Shattuck’s remark about Baudelaire’s art criticism—even when Bonnefoy analyses a painting, a sculpture, or a church façade, he is also writing about poetry.

In the years preceding Rome, 1630, he had produced his seminal essay on Les Fleurs du mal as well as his lengthy study of Rimbaud; and in his excursus on the visual arts of the Seicento, there are constant echoes of his reading of French, English, Italian, and German authors, ranging over the centuries from Ariosto to Goethe, and from Shakespeare to Breton.

Conversely, Bonnefoy’s rapt meditation on seventeenth-century art would leave unmistakable imprints on his lyric canon for many decades to come. For example, in La Vie Errante (The Wandering Life), at the outset of his long poem about Helen of Troy, we find the following lines:

The Idea, some have thought, is the measure of all things.
If that were true, then Guido Reni’s famous painting—
‘La sua bella Elena rapita,’ Bellori called it—
Might compare to the other Helen: the Helen
Zeuxis depicted; the Helen he may have loved.

The offhand allusions to a painter, a painting, and an early art-critic are characteristic of Bonnefoy’s many-threaded style. Yet he embroiders the fabric even more richly by conjuring the ancient artist Zeuxis, the subject of another opus in his immense oeuvre. Such tightly woven cultural tapestries reveal his literary kinship to Jorge Luis Borges, a fellow poet whom he greatly esteemed.

In ‘The House Where I Was Born,’ a suite of twelve poems in The Curved Planks, the revisitation of Elsheimer’s The Mocking of Ceres in number III is both faithful to the painting—a typical instance of ekphrasis—and touchingly experienced from within:

I woke: the house where I was born.
In the night, on every side, trees
Crowded round our door. I stood there
On the threshold, alone in the freezing wind.
But no, not alone at all. Two large figures
Were speaking above me, speaking through me:
One was an old woman, evil and stooped;
The other stood outside, radiant as a lamp,
Raising the cup that had been offered her.
Eagerly she drank, with all her thirst.
Did I mean to mock her? Surely not.
The strangled sound I made was a cry of love,
But it rang with the strangeness of despair.
And then the poison seized me, head to toe.
Mocked, Ceres doomed the one who loved her:
So says today the life that’s walled inside of life.

Bonnefoy’s perspective on Elsheimer’s picture changed very little between his first essay of 1968 and his second analysis of 1992, despite such minor details as discerning two sources of light in the early study and four in the later one. The verses just quoted leave no doubt that in both elucidations, when Bonnefoy identifies the boy with the painter, he is conflating both of them with himself. Here Ceres represents not only the archetypal mother, but the earth we must accept and love, thus transforming our mortality into hope. The entire cycle subtly intertwines episodes from the poet’s childhood with dreams, visions, and myths.

In a sonnet-sequence from 2008, Bonnefoy conjures Elsheimer’s painting even more explicitly, going so far as to entitle one of the poems ‘The Mocking of Ceres’:

Trying to befriend his fever’s words,
He peered through the clouded glass
Of his sleep. Outside, he heard talking.
He cracked the door: darkness, night…

Painter, whose hand is this you hold
While you sleep? Why not let go?
Can clinging to the hand of a child
Save you from the unremitting fear

That blights your images? I dream
You will guide his trust to Ceres: she judges,
Yet suffers; she condemns, yet loves.

I dream you will make peace between desire
And the child—so his bafflement will cease,
And desire no longer lead him to his doom.

Here the painter is addressed directly, as a mediator who might solve the conundrum of our existence. On the one hand, the earth is the mother who engenders and nurtures us, and who suffers when we deny her. On the other hand, she disciplines us through the harshness of our lot, exposing us to climatic disasters, to the accidents of fortune, and ultimately to death. In the end, only by embracing our mortality can we reconcile ourselves to her dual nature. The desire to be more than human has led us to confusion and unhappiness. Yet the acknowledgment of our inborn limitations will allow us to live in calmness and trust. At long last, we will be able to ‘befriend our fever’s words.’ Once again, painting is identified with the verbal art of poetry.

Though Bonnefoy would not draw upon him as extensively as Elsheimer, Claude Lorrain also sparked his lyric impetus. He particularly appreciated the painter’s Landscape with Psyche outside the Palace of Cupid. Indeed, the canvas became a touchstone for his ingenious analysis of the ‘cult of images,’ first published in 1989 as the preface to an exhibition of seventeenth-century art. Two years earlier, the enigmatic picture had already moved Bonnefoy to compose a poem about the artist and his shimmering harbour-scenes, in lines no less forceful for being oblique:

He dreamed he opened his eyes, on suns
That neared the still-silent port, their rays
As yet unlit: but mirrored in the watery grey
Of shadows, where nascent colours teem.

And then he woke. What is light? Why
Do I paint here at night—intensify the blue
Of what is here, its ochres and all its reds?
Is this not death, even more than before?

So he painted the port, but made it a ruin:

Water could be heard, striking beauty’s flank,
And children crying out in closed-off rooms.
The stars were glittering among the stones.

But his final painting is only a sketch.
It seems Psyche has returned. Crumpled
On the tangled grass, she hums or weeps
Before the threshold of Love’s chateau.

As the poet suggests in his essay ‘The Seicento and the Cult of Images,’ the abandoned castle of Claude’s painting is an emblem of proto-Romantic melancholy: it ‘lies in that elsewhere which art signifies so well, each time it becomes an image. The divine is easy, in short, on the horizon of the image. But what will that be worth to us, in life itself? By desiring in that way, do we not run the risk of losing the very thing we desire?’ This is a topic he would later develop in his aphoristic prose-poem, ‘Remarks on the Horizon,’ published in The Anchor’s Long Chain (2008).

Given the centrality of Poussin to Bonnefoy’s reflections on art, it is only to be expected that the master re-emerges in his verse. The sonnet ‘On Three Paintings by Poussin,’ from the same collection, compresses his essays on the artist into a chiselled miniature:

His tomb? they ask me. Well, it’s the dark
Hollow he tucked in the foliage of a tree.
There, already old, Apollo meditates
On youth, a force no god can match.

It’s also the light riddling the clouds
In The Birth of Bacchus, when the sun
Scoops up our hope, still untried,
And moulds it into ever-changing sky.

His tomb? It erodes before the stare
Of his stern eyes in the Self-Portrait:
Its dimmed silvering tarnishes his dreams.

An old man, he is surprised. As evening falls,
He perseveres in saying color—even if it’s late;
Even if his hand is now but a mortal thing.

These lines date from 2008, when Bonnefoy had reached eighty-five years of age. The first picture to which he alludes is Poussin’s Apollo and Daphne, also created towards the end of the painter’s life. Significantly, the god of youth and beauty seems to have lost his vigour, and looks upon the nymphs at his feet with dispassion, despite Cupid’s sprightly entreaties. The deep shadows in the leaves eclipse their verdure, and a murky stream underscores the gloominess of the scene. By contrast, light floods the clouds in The Birth of Bacchus, which actually portrays a later moment in his infancy. Childhood is the time when hope still abounds, though Bonnefoy implies that this may change. And in fact, in this poem he erects the ‘tombeau’ of Poussin—just as Mallarmé had done for Poe and Baudelaire, also in the sonnet-form. The ‘tomb’ can almost be visualized, as it decays before Poussin’s eyes in his austere Self-Portrait. We are reminded of the sarcophagus in The Shepherds of Arcadia at the Louvre: in an extended essay, Bonnefoy had depicted it as the painter’s monument to his art, which exalted him as a ‘hero of the mind.’ Yet now his aspirations have dimmed, and he must recognize his ultimate frailty, like any other mortal. As in the essay—originally presented in the personal form of a lecture—here the poet is speaking to us directly from his own experience.

Bonnefoy would take up the painting once again in another late poem, this time in prose. The title-piece of The Digamma contains a climactic passage in which the female figure (or ‘Muse,’ as he had called her in his lecture) is channelled through the poet’s own beloved:

She has sat up, and her voice has changed. Listen, listen! I was as beautiful then as I am today but—how can I tell you?—I was larger. Maybe I had the same eyes, but—will you understand?—they were wider open. I looked straight ahead of me. I was wearing a blue dress with a stole on top, of a colour that wavered between yellow and red. My sandals were so light that I went almost barefoot… And what was that country where I walked down the paths, for longer than I could remember? Perhaps it was the one you are telling me about… As it happens, I wasn’t the only one who wandered like this, between earth and sky. Was he a shepherd, with his big staff in hand, the man who walked beside me? I could readily believe it, since a few steps further on we arrived at that tomb and its famous inscription. Two other young men were already there, and one of them had dropped to the ground on one knee. Leaning close, with one of his fingers touching the stone, he was searching for a letter in one of the words.

All these characters are familiar to us from the painting; but in a novel twist, the poet is conflated with the ‘Virgilian’ youth, rather than with the kneeling ‘painter’—both identified as such by Bonnefoy in his earlier essay on the work. Shifting to the second person, the ‘Muse’ addresses him:

And you as well, you who accompanied me, you lean close in turn. You want to show me that letter, but you haven’t recognized it there. This bewilders you very much, and you look back at me when I place my hand on your shoulder. Oh yes, my friend, I see that question in your eyes, and I realize you know the answer. It’s not a letter that’s missing in the word, it’s a word that’s missing in the sentence, a certain word. And this word is a verb, a verb that must be read in the present tense, and—as you are well aware—in the first person. The verb that the painter, two of whose figures we are, wanted to be known as the crux of the world, but also as what always withdraws from the world.

In the context of this poem, with its many philological references, the sustained appeal to Poussin’s iconography grounds the text in the lost civilizations of antiquity. Subtly, it brings out the underlying theme that finitude informs every facet of human life: as the tomb’s inscription states, ‘Et in Arcardia ego’—‘I [am] even in Arcadia.’ Here Bonnefoy relies on the traditional interpretation of the phrase, touching on the age-old debate about the tacit verb ‘sum,’ which Latin grammarians find unnecessary to the semantics. The omitted predicate might imply that like the digamma—an extinct Greek letter—absence always functions as a presence: in the ambivalent world we inhabit, being and non-being are fundamentally one.

While Poussinian interludes are hardly surprising, given Bonnefoy’s veneration for the artist (almost to the point of echoing Boileau’s encomiastic verse, ‘Enfin Malherbe vint…’), his fascination with seventeenth-century art also leads him into less-travelled territory. We have already mentioned his allusions to Guido Reni or Adam Elsheimer, but in one of his most splendid prose-poems—‘Leaving the Garden: a Variant’ (2008)—he evokes the often-neglected landscapes of Poussin’s brother-in-law, Gaspard Dughet:

The imagination keeps insisting… A man and woman walk under trees which in places are dense, their branches raddled almost to the ground. They’re so thickset that these two beings—very beautiful and young—have balked several times before those faint, fragrant rustlings of crumpled leaves. They have peered around, as though they would rather go by a different route. We should also note that it is still early in the morning; and already the trees are thinning out, their limbs are higher up on their trunks. The edge of the woods draws near, and soon we have passed beyond it. Before us unfolds an expanse of gentle hills, verdant with a tinge of gold, where you would readily assume small lakes might be hidden—though without any boats on their placid waters. This wide-open country, with its radiant light that grows and grows, is clearly uninhabited.

The two of them walk on. From time to time, they stray through other copses; they even linger in them for a while, turning to each other when they do. Seen from afar, between a final tree and the enormous sky, they appear to be conversing. The young woman stretches out her arm toward who knows where, toward a horizon. And then they set out again… but even so, aren’t they still here? You could almost believe they are motionless. This sky and these trees, with the lakes we sense in the distance, seem so much like a picture: one of those canvases, cast in a key of dark-green, that a painter of 1660 or so, a successor of Poussin and a friend of Gaspard Dughet, might have substituted for the world—if winds had blown up from those unfathomable years, as they should have, to sweep the long winter’s final leaves from our path.

In Bonnefoy’s estimation, the deserted landscape, in which a few scattered human beings merely throw the solitude into deeper relief, is one of the major inventions of the Seicento, championed by Poussin and his followers such as Dughet. It signals the culmination of the Renaissance mimesis of profuse detail, while at the same time preparing the advent of Romanticism, in which humanity is but a minor player on the stupendous stage of nature.

Yet in the end, the landscape in this poem is still a painting, a world unto itself. Suggestively, Bonnefoy converts the Fall of Adam and Eve into another form of exile: our expulsion from the ideal space of the canvas into the harsher verity outside it. But it is only by leaving the paradise of divine harmony that we can assume our mortal destiny. Death is what gives meaning and intensity to life on this earth, beyond the deceptive seductions of the image, with its false promises of eternity:

A picture. In the form of the shoulders, the arms; in these lines that stand out firmly when a painter plies his trade. And the colours, too vivid almost in the hair, or the shapely untrammelled flesh—in the foliage, too, and the fruits we notice hanging there. Yes, a picture: since I’m well aware who they are for me, the man and woman who saunter past us, on an otherwise deserted earth. They’re Adam and Eve, after what’s been called Original Sin. They’re being driven from the Garden of Eden, which they cross unhurriedly, since time still hasn’t begun. It’s nothing but the hours of a summer sky, in this trackless country where the light alone decides: laughing, she separates the colours that play too rough; or leans down to pick one up who’s taken a tumble, to his surprise.

Adam, Eve? They have an entire day to amble like this on the earth—and then, when the sun sinks low, visible all of a sudden in the late afternoon, iron railings will appear at the end of a long, straight walkway of sand. The wind will rise, the sky will redden in the west, and the trees will stir with bird-cries never heard before. Beyond the open threshold, night will await these two exiles: they will consent to wander off into the dark. But for the moment, all they know is precisely this moment: the timeless present of images…

The key word here is consent: by accepting our mortality, we free ourselves from the lure of illusion. The study of art allows us to enter the ‘mystery of the rectangle,’ as Siri Hustvedt calls it, only to return to the everyday world with a vision clearer and more seasoned than before. Adam and Eve—who often reappear in Bonnefoy’s work—have lost their naivety, but they have harvested the fruits of knowledge.

The passage quoted above is a magnificent illustration of how the poet draws on the Christian legends he finds in Renaissance and Baroque art in order to give them an altered sense, one far more relevant to our era of spiritual poverty. This is his resounding answer to Hölderlin’s question: ‘Und wozu Dichter in dürftiger Zeit?’ (‘What good are poets in times of dearth?’) In the verses immediately following this one, Hölderlin offers a similar response, linking poetry to the priesthood of Dionysus, one of his trinity of gods along with Heracles and Christ. Yet here is where Bonnefoy departs from both the religious fundaments of traditional art and the nostalgia of Romanticism for a vanished godhead. If he lingers over Ceres in his meditations on Elsheimer, it is not because of her deity but because she symbolizes earth, the mother who sustains us. In poem XII of ‘The House Where I Was Born,’ he underlines this conviction with impassioned lucidity:

Now I understand: it was Ceres
Who sought shelter on the night
Someone was knocking at the door.
Outside, her beauty suddenly flared–
Her light and her desire too, her need
To slake her thirst with the cup of hope:
She might still find that child again,
Even if lost. Though rich with herself,
Rich with her divinity, she had not known
How to lift her child in the young wheat’s flame,
Laughing in the simple light that gives us life—
Before the god of the dead, and all his greed.

We must pity Ceres, not mock her—and so
Must meet at crossroads in deepest night,
Call out athwart words, even with no reply:
And make our voice, no matter how obscure,
Love Ceres at last, who suffers and seeks.

Reverting once again to the imagery of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, as filtered through Elsheimer’s lens, Bonnefoy asserts the primacy of life over death, of hope over despair. And without naming Caravaggio, he reprises a somewhat reluctant tribute he had rendered to him once as the painter of those ‘crossroads in deepest night’ where we must confront our suffering and dread—though here our darkened voices can still utter words of love, illumined by the ‘simple light’ of poetry.

IN THE LAST year of his life, Yves Bonnefoy returned to his preoccupation with Nicolas Poussin. As he told several of his oldest friends, he wanted to write a full-length book on the painter; unfortunately for his many readers, time ran out before he could undertake this project. But in our final conversations, he gave me several hints about where his thoughts were tending. On one of my visits, I brought him the catalogue of an exhibition on Florentine portraiture in the Cinquecento, which featured Salviati along with Pontormo and Bronzino. A painting by Mirabello Cavalori particularly entranced him; he said the canvas seemed far ahead of its time, ‘almost anticipating German Romanticism.’

It was evident to me from his comments that he had revised the negative judgment of Mannerism expressed in his earlier essays. On another visit, I gave him the lavishly illustrated collection of essays, The Genius of Rome 1592-1623. Leafing through the colour plates, he was moved to exclaim that many talented Caravaggisti still had not received their due. I mentioned Ter Bruggen and Manfredi, but we agreed the cohort was legion. This too marked a change in his previous strictures about their work as mediocre or derivative.

Bonnefoy’s new-found enthusiasm for the ‘minor’ Mannerists and Caravaggisti demonstrated the remarkable flexibility of his intellect, even in high old age. At ninety-three, he was actively questioning his former assumptions; and as so often in our half-century of friendship, we engaged in an ironic but empathetic discussion. Our back-and-forth led us along well-worn byways: a bit of a ‘modernist,’ he conceived of art as a series of breakthroughs by towering geniuses; more a ‘postmodernist,’ I viewed the pathway of creation as a wide thoroughfare for armies of painters. Many of them might show only occasional flashes of brilliance, but all contributed to the evolution of multivalent styles. Of course, these two standpoints were never mutually exclusive, and we often came to the conclusion that both the unique paragon and the corps of artists were necessary to the dialectical process, leaping by fits and starts as well as rolling imperturbably over the road of time. Would Bonnefoy have reconciled Poussin with both Mannerists and Caravaggisti in the end? Who can say?

During these years, I was spending more and more months in Venice, and we often had occasion to speak about Tintoretto, whose every canvas still extant in the city I studied in detail. Another book I brought to Bonnefoy catalogued an exhibition on the critical career of Roberto Longhi, whose predilection for Piero della Francesca was as adamant as our own. Of course, Longhi was also known for his pioneering re-evaluation of Caravaggio, and the gift prompted reminiscences about the paintings Bonnefoy and I had seen together in Rome in 2005.

Though perhaps it is only wishful thinking, I seemed to discern that gradually, Bonnefoy was meeting me halfway on the affirmative thrust of Merisi’s work: an artist who faced the terrors of ‘nothingness,’ no doubt, but whose overriding message is the salvific grace of compassion. In this light, the re-discovery of the Dublin Taking of Christ, which travelled to several other cities after its definitive attribution to Caravaggio, fuelled our concurrence, as did my hours-long examination of The Resurrection of Lazarus, in Rome and at its usual home in Messina.

Even so, as far as I could tell, Yves Bonnefoy never agreed with me about Tintoretto’s pivotal role in art history, as a Janus-figure looking back at the Renaissance and forward to future painting—whether the Baroque, Romanticism, or beyond. He was non-committal about my rash claim that his roughly brushed folds of cloth almost seemed like patches of abstract expressionism (a view that has increasingly gained a foothold, even among professional art historians). Still, it was typical of him to tolerate such flights of fancy with a smile. He was inclined to leave others to their reveries, just as he insisted on cultivating his own: for example, his ‘Gnostic’ vision of Borromini, as a spirit akin to the more sombre passages of The Magic Flute. On one of our walks in Rome, during that sojourn of 2005, we fled San Luigi dei Francesi and Santa Maria della Vittoria in turn, both crowded with ‘lycéens’ on their spring break, loquaciously herded by their teachers. We debated whether there was an erotic element in Bernini’s St. Theresa, a notion which Bonnefoy discounted. ‘But what of her friend St. John of the Cross,’ I ventured, ‘and the Song of Songs on which his great poem is based? Doesn’t all genuine mysticism grow from a primal desire for union?’

‘Perhaps…’ he said. But I could tell he was no longer listening. Without paying much heed to where our steps had taken us, we had arrived at the Palazzo Barberini. He raised his eyes to the twin windows designed by Borromini, distilled into a single and ‘singular’ window in his book on the Roman Baroque. I could almost see him recalling the text, which contrasts Bernini with his enigmatic rival, though they remain ultimately consonant, ‘the diastole and systole of a selfsame heart.’ Whether the loaded term ‘Mannerism’ is neutralized as simply ‘late-sixteenth art,’ and whether the equally fraught label ‘Baroque’ is quantified as ‘seventeenth-century art,’ every twist and turn of the aesthetic impulse carries our own inmost contradictions forward. In a sense, they are beyond space and time, fully integral to the human mind. As Bonnefoy perceived, ‘Borromini transforms into an image what in Bernini is an act: in this, his works are like pictures at architecture’s core.’ We incessantly commute our acts into depictions, whether verbal or visual, as our friend knew better than anyone; his life truly embodied the art of poetry—and the poetry of art.

A Bibliographical Note
I have translated Bonnefoy’s poem on Claude Lorrain especially for this essay; I have also revised a version of the sonnet on ‘The Mocking of Ceres’ that first appeared in Plume Poetry. The other English renderings I have quoted may be found in The Digamma (2014) and Second Simplicity: New Poetry and Prose, 1991-2011 (2012). The latter contains a bibliography of Bonnefoy’s books available in English, many of which I have mentioned above.

Hoyt Rogers is a writer, translator, scholar, and internationalist; born in North America, he has spent most of his life in Latin America and Europe. He was educated at Columbia, the Sorbonne, Harvard, and Oxford, and is a contributing editor of The Fortnightly Review. He is the author of a book of verse, Witnesses, and a volume of criticism, The Poetics of Inconstancy. His poems, stories, and essays have appeared in many periodicals. He translates from the French, German, Italian, and Spanish; he has published dozens of translations, including the Selected Poems of Borges and various books by Bonnefoy and du Bouchet. In the spring of 2020, he contributed four sections to Carcanet’s reader of Bonnefoy’s Prose; also in 2020, Bitter Oleander published Outside, his second anthology of André du Bouchet’s writings. His latest translation, Bonnefoy’s Rome, 1630: The Horizon of the Early Baroque—to which the above essay refers—will be published in 2020 by Seagull Books. His webpage is

More here:

This essay is published to accompany The Fortnightly Review‘s publication of ‘The Seicento and the Cult of Images’ by Yves Bonnefoy.

For more about Bonnefoy’s perspectives on Italian art, please see ‘Tintoretto: After and Before,’ by Hoyt Rogers.

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