Music as the Perfecting of Poetry: Liszt – Sonetto 104 del Petrarca (c. 1846)

Petrarch/Liszt, sonnet 104. “The effect of the abbaabba octave is truly remarkable. It is actually a blend of 3 brace-rhyme quatrains, since the middle 4 verses whose sounds overlap the others and echo their patterns, impress the reader with a similar sound pattern, thus, abBAABba.”(Alex Preminger, ed., Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics) Canzone CIV…

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, where Gounod's opera Mireille is set

Gounod and Mistral – Mireille

The video below is Vincent’s aria in the second scene of the fifth and final act of Charles Gounod’s 1864 opera Mireille, written the year before his remarkable Faust, based on the first part of Goethe’s play. Mireille contains fascinating music. The libretto is based on Frédéric Mistral’s long lyric poem Mirèio. Mistral was the 1904…

Georg Trakl (1887-1914) – Stardust of the Crystal Angel

I have been interested in Trakl’s work for several years now, stimulated by several essays in the American literary press, the provenance of which I, alas, have forgotten. What does stay in particular is the poem De Profundis, which is both remarkable and devastating. Michael Hamburger’s translation is this: There is a stubble field on which a…

Rilke – Duino Elegies 4, 7, 9, translated by Allan Cooper

These are translations by Allan Cooper of the 4th, 7th, and 9th of Rilke’s Duino Elegies. They are intensely moving. Allan Cooper lives in Alma, New Brunswick. I have stayed, and written, there often. In Spanish, the word alma usually means soul. They appear in the exceptional literary site, Numéro Cinq, which is the creation of Douglas…

Robert Melançon – Le paradis des apparences (2004), tr. Judith Cowan as For as Far as the Eye Can See (2013)

4 December 2015 Extraordinary is Montreal poet Robert Melançon’s 2004 For as Far as the Eye Can See in an exceptional translation by Judith Cowan. The original is titled Le paradis des apparences. The book consists of 144 12-line sonnets, intricately based upon the truncated form, the sonnets lacking a concluding couplet, but the book’s overarching structure…

Nguyen Chi Thien, Vietnamese Poet

The Vietnamese Poet Nguyen Chi Thien

A friend sent me the Economist’s obituary of the poet, of whom I knew nothing. The sorrow of his life is documented for Western readers in the dozens of other obituaries to be found on the Web, and in his autobiography, which can be found at the Viet Nam Literature Project. A slim volume of…