cover image Collected Poems of Stephane Mallarme

Collected Poems of Stephane Mallarme

Stephane Mallarme, Author, Sta1/2phane Mallarma1/2, Author, St?phane Mallarm?, Author University of California Press $55 (300p) ISBN 978-0-520-08188-8

To be translated, the work of Mallarme must be transmuted, leading to a poetry just as weirdly and irreducibly English as his is in French. But alchemical operations are conducted according to rules, and poet Weinfield (Sonnets Elegiac and Satirical) has chosen as his focus Mallarme's elaboration of rhyme and meter. Since poetic forms are as indigenous to their languages as the senses and sounds of words themselves (and since English has many fewer rhyme-words than French), this is a brave undertaking. Mallarme's work subverts the standardized, highly rhetorical conventions of traditional French verse; he uses the confines of poetic form to set free and play with private images and syntactical or semantic ambiguities. English poetry is much less formal-many of the conventions it once observed have fallen into abeyance during the last century. By now, there are relatively few poets with a sufficient command of form to use it against the grain in the manner of Mallarme. Unfortunately, Weinfield is not among them: his rhymes are flat and obtrusive, he lacks prosodic tact, and his choice of diction, which appears propelled more by the dictionary than by the drift of the poems, aggravates matters. (Nov.)