A long overdue volume of Jacques Darras, celebrated French poet of place and nature, and prolific translator and scholar of American and British poetry.
"John Scotus Eriugena at Laon," the title poem of this volume, recounts the journey of a ninth-century Irish monk to the cathedral city of Laon in the heart of Picardy to translate a recently discovered Byzantine manuscript into Latin—the first such transmission of ancient Greek thought northward into Carolingian Europe. Eriugena's pithy formulation of neo-Platonism—omnia quae sunt lumina sunt—echoes forth in Pound's Pisan Cantos as "all things that are are lights." This is the radiance that pulses through the theophanic nature poetry of Jacques Darras, celebrant of northern rivers, islands, seas, and bard of Picardy. His lifelong commerce with the English language as the translator of Shakespeare, Blake, Whitman, Pound, Bunting and MacDiarmid is here met by Richard Sieburth's wide-ranging and award-winning forays into French.
“Translating Darras, Richard Sieburth refashions the poetic map of France. For the first time in English, we have Darras’s Northern tradition, his radical reorientation of French from the Mediterranean to Picardy, and his reaching across the Channel to the burly, material poetries of Bunting, Hill, MacDiarmid, and Hughes. Erudite, physical, dramatic, Darras brings a new voice into French: ‘In the treading vats of Laon, the light / squirts out from underfoot.’ Richard Sieburth has brought that voice into brilliantly energetic English.” —Rosanna Warren
“Who but Richard Sieburth would have even ventured to render this deeply philosophical, sensitive gathering of poems—and do so with such elegance?” —Mary Ann Caws
“There is both an antique and contemporary feel to the work of Jacques Darras. This gives it depth, historical and metaphysical depth, and in these gorgeous translations each line is chiseled and singing.” —Peter Gizzi
“Jacques Darras has always been unique among his French contemporaries in that his poetry, like his critical prose, looks less to Mallarmé or the French Surrealists than to the poets of Northern England he has so ably translated, from Basil Bunting to Hugh MacDiarmid and Geoffrey Hill. Darras’s is that rare thing in contemporary French letters—nature poetry. Darras’s magnum opus, the long poem “La Maye” which he has been writing for decades, has epic dimensions. If Pound’s is a ‘poem containing history,’ Darras’s is a ‘poem containing geography,’ but a geography itself laced with the footprints of its ongoing historic transformations. His is the story of four rivers— the Somme, the Meuse, the Escaut, and the poet’s own little river in his native Picardy, the Maye. The poet’s eye for detail and his immense erudition produce what Wallace Stevens called ‘a mythology [that] reflects its region.’ As interpreted here by Richard Sieburth, one of our very finest translators, the poetry in this volume is as memorable as it is startlingly original—a real discovery." — Marjorie Perloff
World Poetry Books