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This review is taken from PN Review 80, Volume 17 Number 6, July - August 1991.

AT THE HEART OF TRUTH 'Yves Bonnefoy, Early Poems 1947-1959 translated by Galway Kinnell and Richard Peaver, Ohio University Press, £23.95;
In The Shadow's Light translated by John T. Naughton, University of Chicago Press, £19.95, £10.25 pb

In a career stretching back more than forty years Yves Bonnefoy has published only five volumes of poetry. Yet, even though the bibliography of his prose writings numbers several hundred items, Bonnefoy has never ceased to manifest himself as first and foremost a poet, in the opinion of many the nonpareil of his time. As if to compensate for the relatively infrequent appearance of his individual volumes of poetry, Bonnefoy has taken infinite pains to make them books in their own right, rather than mere collections of disparate material. In this the example of Baudelaire, strictly speaking the poet of one book and one book only, must have been significant, though the eloquent plenitude which is at once a by-product of Bonnefoy's practice and an informing principle has perhaps been more actively galvanized by Rimbaud and - very unusually within Bonnefoy's indigenous tradition - Shakespeare. Though very much marked by the post-war epoch in which he matured, Bonnefoy too often dwarfs his contemporaries for analogies between him and them to be of much profit. Not by nature a radical innovator, Bonnefoy has found his purposes best served by investigating the past achievements that comprise a tradition, a 'classic' line if not necessarily a classicist one.

Of particular importance to him - though his interests range far too widely to be compartmentalized by epoch - have been cultural artefacts insistent upon their palpable properties, whether as fine art, sculpture or architecture. As his books of poetry unambiguously indicate, ...


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