Zone: Selected Poems

Guillaume Apollinaire, trans. from the French by Ron Padgett. New York Review Books, $16 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-59017-925-3
Padgett (Alone and Not Alone) breathes new life into Apollinaire’s best work, with translations suited to a modern American audience in this dual-language edition. The title poem is a slice of modernist brilliance, a marathon romp through Paris, where the industrial is made pastoral as “Herds of buses drive past mooing loud,” and religion, myth, and modernity are in constant shuffle. “The Song of the Badly Loved” is an epic lament—“Regret is Hell’s household”—that resonates even more for its stark language: “I am faithful and I suffer.” A passionately redemptive spirit drives “The Brazier,” a poem that Peter Read, in his introduction, describes as a challenge to the “foregone script of mortal destiny” through the acceptance of a “nonnegotiable poetic quest” that is enhanced by Apollinaire’s incredible descriptive powers. Read further notes the “stunning immediacy” of Apollinaire’s war poems, such as “The Little Car” and “The Cavalryman’s Farewell,” whose famously debated opening line Padgett presents as “Ah Well! and Oh what a lovely war this is.” Meanwhile, the bohemian pastiche “Monday rue Christine” presciently anticipates the Beats’ aesthetic. Padgett does a great service to Apollinaire’s legacy with this revitalized translation, and his exhaustively researched postscript notes make the more difficult poems accessible. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 12/21/2015
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-59017-924-6
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