Second Simplicity: New Poetry and Prose (1991-2011) by Yves Bonnefoy

Second Simplicity: New Poetry and Prose (1991-2011) by Yves Bonnefoy
Yves Bonnefoy

Second Simplicity: New Poetry and Prose (1991-2011) by Yves Bonnefoy collects the recent works of renowned French poet Yves Bonnefoy.

Yves Bonnefoy has gratified his readers during the past two decades with the most prolific and innovative period of his splendid lifework. This volume presents in English and French an inviting array of his recent writings, carefully selected for their literary quality as well as their broad appeal. It features several works never published before and many that have never been translated into English. The first anthology of Bonnefoy’s work to appear since 1995, this collection reflects the poet’s powerful engagement with the New England landscape; its quiet woods and fields have helped to shape to the pared-down aesthetic of his recent years. The book is the first to showcase not only the poetry for which Bonnefoy is justly renowned but also his inventive compositions in prose. Appropriately, the book alternates more traditional verse with freer forms, just as the author has done in several major works of the past twenty years; that symbiotic approach is one of the hallmarks of this latter phase of his art. Superbly translated by Hoyt Rogers, the collection is organized chronologically, revealing clearly how the poet continues to extend and refine his scope and style. Rogers provides a masterly introduction in which he analyzes aspects of Bonnefoy’s recent writings and the “second simplicity” that characterizes his late work.

Yves Bonnefoy (1923-2016) was born in Tours, France to a railroad worker and a schoolteacher. He studied mathematics, the history of science, and philosophy at both the University of Poitiers and the Sorbonne. He moved to Paris in 1943 and was influenced by surrealist poets André Breton and George Éluard. But with his first poetry collection, Du mouvement et de l’immobilite de Douve (On the motion and immobility of Douve), published in 1953, Bonnefoy began to develop his own style and approach. Speaking of the sources of his own poetry, Bonnefoy told the Paris Review, “What is usual for me is the desire to find myself once again within a specifically poetic idiom. For this to happen it is necessary that words come to my mind free from the conceptual network that is present and active in ordinary speech. … So I jot down these sentences. I listen to them. I see them making signs to each other, and thanks to them I begin to understand needs, memories, fantasies which are within me. This is the beginning of the poem, which will eventually become a whole book, since it will concern all that I am.”

Considered one of the great French poets of the 20th century, Bonnefoy published many major collections of verse, several books of tales, numerous studies of literature and art, and an extensive dictionary of mythology. He was famed for his translations of Shakespeare especially, though he also translated the work of W.B. Yeats and John Donne, among others. In Shakespeare and the French Poet (edited by John Naughton, 2004), Bonnefoy remarked on the task of translating Shakespeare as “a personal act of poetry, not merely restoring the meaning as fully as possible, but simultaneously reinventing a meaning and a form in the French version, a rhythm—form and rhythm being a part of the meaning in their own way, an irreplaceable part. Verse, real verse, emerging as such, is the only medium that can suggest Shakespeare’s verse in my translation.”

Bonnefoy’s many honors and awards included the Goncourt Prize. A regular presence at many American universities, Bonnefoy lectured on poetry and poetics, translation, and art. He was professor of comparative poetics at the Collège de France and lived in Paris until his death in 2016.

  • ISBN: 10:0300198183/13:9780
  • Spring, 2013

Publisher: Yale University Press