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This article is taken from PN Review 71, Volume 16 Number 3, January - February 1990.

In The Grain of The Voice: Yves Bonnefoy John Pilling

In more than forty years of writing Yves Bonnefoy has published five books of poetry. During the same period he has translated seven Shakespeare plays, Yeats's Resurrection, the Three Secret Poems of George Seferis, and selections from Robert Frost, Endre Ady and Cyprian Norwid; edited a Dictionary of Mythology ; undertaken a full-length study of baroque Rome and a brilliant account of the life and work of Rimbaud; and contributed upwards of a hundred and fifty essays on art, poetry and culture to the most distinguished Parisian periodical reviews, selections from which have been collected as L'Improbable, La seconde simplicité, Un rêve fait à Mantoue and Le Nuage rouge. There is really no-one in England to whom one might usefully compare him, and few figures world-wide - Octavio Paz and Joseph Brodsky come to mind - who have offered quite so many proofs of exceptional powers operative over such generous domains of endeavour.

The thirteen selections for The Act and the Place of Poetry, to be followed by a companion volume of art criticism, reflect the extraordinary catholicity of Bonnefoy's interests. Four are essays in poetics, the last of them his important inaugural lecture on becoming Professor of Poetry at the Collège de France; four more address his great Symbolist and post-Symbolist predecessors Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Rimbaud and Valéry (the latter the first occupant of Bonnefoy's professorial chair); three deal with Shakespeare; and there is a lengthy interview and a study of words and speech in The Song ...

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