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Index: Dossier: Yves Bonnefoy

The Seicento and the Cult of Images.

Yves Bonnefoy: ‘We look at these rivers, these cities in the light; at these beings, haloed by an astounding dignity. We say to ourselves: that world is, perhaps. And within us, soon the ‘passion’ flames up, which is nothing but a love that has its object in our dreams—and we feel tempted to devote a ‘cult’ to certain images, at least.’

Yves Bonnefoy, 1923-2016.

Sam Sacks [in The New Yorker]: ‘But the French had become antagonistic to the supremacy of ideas. Bonnefoy wrote that “the influence of the great 19th-century poets, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, and Rimbaud, and more recently of surrealism, has profoundly regenerated the whole conception of poetry by emphasizing that its value is non-rational and subjective.” ‘

Writing to Shakespeare.

Bonnefoy: ‘…you’re standing in a corner of the theatre. It’s cold, and a wind seems to be blowing. You’re talking to several men, young and old. One of them will be Hamlet; another, Ophelia. Do you have an idea to explain to them? No. Hamlet is being written here, at this very moment, in the sentences that come to you, that take you by surprise. It’s virtually an improvisation, over several days divided between your table—I don’t know where—and the stage: a text, certainly, but one you cross out off-the-cuff, as when you understand—for example, at this very instant—that your future Hamlet doesn’t grasp all that well what you’re trying to tell him.’

Yves Bonnefoy.

Anthony Rudolf: ‘Hier régnant désert (1958), L’Improbable (1959) and Rimbaud par lui-même (1961) changed my life nearly fifty years ago, and remain potent, as transformative elements in life always do. When I read them, I knew I must have a life on the page, because the page is where the forms of life speak to us most deeply. ‘

Yves Bonnefoy dossier: Index.

Yves Bonnefoy, often acclaimed as France’s greatest living poet, has published nine major collections of verse, several books of tales, and numerous studies of literature and art. He succeeded Roland Barthes in the Chair of Poetics at the Collège de France. His work has been translated into scores of languages, and he is a celebrated translator of Shakespeare, Yeats, Keats, and Leopardi.

The Bonnefoy dossier: Three new translations by Beverley Bie Brahic.

From ‘Egypt’ by Bonnefoy: ‘But this memory was being effaced, and vanished completely with the final episode, right from its start, as if it were in its nature to unravel, without violence but for ever, something that the joys, preoccupations and lessons of a lifetime had brought to maturity.’

The Bonnefoy dossier: Three new translations by Hoyt Rogers.

From the ‘translator’s note’ to ‘Nisida’: ‘Nisida is a prison for juvenile offenders on an island off the coast of Italy, not far from Naples. When he sent me this poem in June 2012, Yves Bonnefoy wrote the following about his visit there: “The text appeared in a prison leaflet. An attempt is made to engage these young people, who are still minors, in cultural activities. The poems they write, and which they read aloud to me that day, seemed more like poetry to me than many writings published under that name in France.”’

Bonnefoy: Image and poiesis.

Alan Wall: ‘The first two poems in The Present Hour deal with old photographs, interrogating them and the memories they embody and evoke. It is the weird entrapments of the present in a photograph that snags Bonnefoy’s mind. Here appears a present that is now past, and yet a glimpse of the presentness of that long-gone instant remains, even if it is no more than a tatter blowing in chronology’s wind. There is still a truth to be found in it, however problematical and elliptical. We can only find it in the image itself through an exploration of that non-sensuous mimesis which is language. ‘

The Curved Planks, Dear Paula, a postscript, and a note on Paula Rego.

Yves Bonnefoy (to Paula Rego): ‘Paula, you put speech to the test of night. The frail voice which sought the clearest and simplest truth in the relationship between people, you bury it, as a mountain crumbles, under the multiplying voices that you hear crashing around inside you, as they protest violently, crazily, angrily, in the abyss of the unconscious. Your dark revelations have become the entire sky, the entire earth. What will remain of the hope of this child who has arrived from nowhere, clutching in his clenched fist what he needs to pay for his passage?

Everything, in my opinion.’