A Roll of the Dice

St%C3%A9phane Mallarm%C3%A9, trans. from the French by Jeff Clark and Robert Bononno. Wave (Consortium, dist.), $25 (96p) ISBN 978-1-940696-04-1
French poet Mallarmé's 1897 text, both a poem and a work of visual art, has long been heralded as the very beginning of the international avant-garde. Writers for decades have seen its amazements: sentences broken up and reassembled, words in many type sizes and conjunctions, splayed all over each page. Indeed, the poem's lightning-frantic, arresting phrases alert readers that it seeks a new verbal world, a "whirlwind of hilarity and horror// above the abyss." Poet and book designer Clark (Music and Suicide) and prolific translator Bononno produce a fine contemporary English to match the dazzle of Mallarmé's French. But their real claim to attention is the physical, typographical form of the book, which—more neatly than any prior version—matches the visual experience of "Un coup de des"; Clark and Bononno duplicate the layout and design that Mallarmé wanted (but never got before his death), first in their English, and then in Mallarmé's French, using different typefaces for the two languages, but otherwise the same design. The full-page photographs between text pages come uncomfortably close to illustration, yet the pages of text do something to and for a reader's attention, reaching places that a more conventional printing might not find. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/04/2015
Release date: 04/01/2015
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