English Translation of Leon-Paul Fargue’s Poemes

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The introduction (by the translator) to this volume breaks new ground, and underlines Fargue’s importance both as a major poet and as a modernist. The preface by the important poet and editor, Peter Gizzi, will prove useful even to those who are very au courant with modern poetry. Fargue has never been translated into English, apart from a few poems in a Penguin anthology. St. John Perse, Joyce, and Rilke all considered Fargue one of the major poets of his age. And his best work, most agree, is the body of prose poems. These have the appeal of the flâneur genre, the kind of lively prose vignettes of Paris that Baudelaire made popular. This translation capitalizes on the visual appeal of Paris scenes, while also highlighting Fargue’s unique sense of the poetic, which was an important contribution to developing Modernism. Fargue blends Surrealism with a delicate musical stillness which evolves from French Symbolism. At the same time, Fargue’s often strange and unsettling images unfold a more personal sense of the poetic: his conviction that the poetic image is a return to, a re-writing of, childhood, an unlocking of the most intimate passages in time. Poëmes is Fargue’s first major work, a turning point in his writing, and an exemplary suite of prose poems. Facing page translations.


“Peter Thompson’s translations are gorgeous and teeming with Fargue’s indefatigable energy. He gets the nervy interior language to behave as effortlessly as everyday speech; Fargue’s patient loneliness comes through. The purposeful use of archaic language is here in the American, like an architectural flourish around a modern shop window yielding a reflective surface in which we see ourselves within the cityscape. Add to that a locomotive music and we are on our way.” – Peter Gizzi, University of Massachusetts

“Peter Thompson’s translation of Léon-Paul Fargue’s Poëmes adds a new dimension and insight for the Anglophone reader to the understanding of the French phenomenon of ‘poëmes en prose’ and that of a ‘city poet’ discovering the ‘other side’ of the early modern cosmopolitan world through nocturnal explorations.” – Richard Schieber, Roger Williams University

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Preface by Peter Gizzi
Introduction by Peter S. Thompson
Poëmes (1912)

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