Best known in the United States as the mastermind of the Surrealist movement and as the author of the dream-logic fiction Nadja, André Breton has always enjoyed in Europe the additional reputation of being a brilliant poet. Bill Zavatsky’s and Zack Rogow’s excellent translation of Breton’s Earthlight (Clair de terre) introduces the English-language audience to the delights—and complexities—of Breton’s amazing poetry. Written to friends and fellow Surrealists such as Pablo Picasso, André Derain, Robert Desnos, Francis Picabia, Pierre Reverdy, and Max Ernst, the poems in the collection date from 1919 to 1936, spanning Breton’s involvement with Dadaism and his founding and development of Surrealism.
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Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French
Breton (1896-1966), frequently dubbed the "pope" of surrealism, has had surprisingly few poems translated into English. Spanning 1919-1936, this volume covers his early work, his associations with Dada and the formative years of surrealism. Readers can at last become familiar with the artworks spawned from a great theoretical mind (Breton authored most of the surrealist manifestos). Poetry lovers familiar with the work of Apollinaire, Reverdy and others, might not find these poems particularly original on first reading. But viewed closely, Breton's ability to personify objects reveals an ironic chain of affinities not as farfetched as that of his contemporaries: "Open and closed the beautiful windows / Hung from the day's lips / The beautiful windows with only their nighties on." As in his classic novel, Nadja , there is a mysterious, omnipresent sense of the erotic female that can be construed from disjointed images. Determined that Breton "should sound like an American poet," the translators have more than met their goal, even managing to successfully carry over the poet's wordplay: "Emeral dawn / Reflections' ephemeral dawn." Copious notes at the end of the volume explain references in poems, and comment upon the numerous dedications, providing almost a who's who of Dada and surrealism.
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