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This review is taken from PN Review 211, Volume 39 Number 5, May - June 2013.

Capturing Simplicity yves bonnefoy, Beginning and End of the Snow, translated by Emily Grosholz with watercolours by Farhad Ostovani (Bucknell University Press) £11.95

Yves Bonnefoy turns 90 this year.Le Digamma, his most recent collection of poetry, was published in September 2012, a year which also produced a bumper crop of translations: Bonnefoy's prose meditation, The Arrière-pays (1972), translated by Stephen Romer; Second Simplicity: New Poetry and Prose: 1991-2011, translated by Hoyt Rogers, and Emily Grosholz's Beginning and End of the Snow (1991), surely one of Bonnefoy's most compelling collections. Set in the winter landscape of a New England familiar to readers of Robert Frost, whose work Bonnefoy discusses in his Preface ('Does snow fall the same way in every language?' he asks, and answers in a few paragraphs that will fascinate anyone intrigued with the differences, or who wrestles with them as a translator), Beginning and End of the Snow includes descriptions haiku-like in their blending of clarity and mystery, a long poem, Hopkins Forest, and a sequence set in an Italian city where 'snowflakes whirl' and the sound of snow is the sound of bees 'in the meadow of my tenth year'. Present and past, direct observation and memory mingle. The final sequence, Where the Arrow Falls, describes - enacts, really - the experience of being lost in a Provençal wood, in poems that are disarmingly down to earth but, like Petrarch's description of climbing the Mont Ventoux, enveloped in a shimmer of existential concerns. 'Lost. Just a few feet from the house', Bonnefoy's limpid prose, which Grosholz's translation catches so beautifully, starts out:

And it is only ...


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