7 years ago307 views
Poet John Ashbery came to New York University's Maison Française to read from his new book of translations of Rimbaud's prose poems "Les Illuminations" and to be presented with yet another honor, a medal of the Center for French Civilization and Culture. First he was interviewed by poet Ron Padgett who sits besides him in the video.. Next the prose poem "Après le Déluge" was read flawlessly in French by a fellow whose name I didn't get. After, John Ashbery presents his English translation, "After the Flood."
What happens after the flood? Here flood, as in biblical times, represents the purification of the corruption of the human race. But after, sadly, Rimbaud shows it as returning to what it was about before: commerce, cruelty and false piety. The "precious stones " are buried in the earth again. It's so boring! ("C'est l'ennui".) He then calls for the floods to rise again, despite the sorrow and destruction they bring.
For a deeper understanding of the symbolism in this poem if you can read French go here:
You will find out things like how this poem relates to the socialist revolutionary Communards of Paris and their destruction by the church, why Madame X set up a piano in the Alps, and that there really was a Hotel Splendide which was a luxury hotel for wealthy Brits which burned down. Rimbaud sent it to be rebuilt at the North Pole, changing fire to ice and darkness, and putting the millionaires at a distance where he would have them. You will find out who Eucharis is and Bluebeard . I was fairly lost in two languages until I read this piece although I had studied the poem in school long ago. There was no discussion or Q & A after the presentation. This event took place May 12, 2011 in New York City. Thanks to John Ashbery for coming to read to us.