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The Collected Poems of Marcel Proust edited by Harold Augenbraum

The Collected Poems of Marcel Proust edited by Harold Augenbraum includes not only the original French alongside the English translations of the poems, but also detailed notes on the various references and historical context for each of the poems at the end of the collection. As an interesting addition, there are a few of the original drawings that Proust sent along with the poems in his correspondence.  Proust is generally known for his prose, and most people don’t know that he wrote poems.  (While I’ve read some of his poems before, I have not read his prose.  I’m a bit out of the norm.)  “The poems were composed from when Proust was seventeen to when he was fifty,” says the introduction on page xvi.  That’s a long period of time, and there are a great many poems.  How many of these poems were written down in one moment or revised is unclear, but some of these poems clearly were further along in the process.

Proust’s poems range from witty to plainspoken and sarcastic.  Some of his poems about love border on the edge of passion and hatred, and there are moments in certain poems that may remind readers of the great Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.  Proust’s poems celebrate not only art, but also music, language, and friendship — even those relationships that sour.  Many of these poems were untitled.

Poem 9 (page 27)

Madame, it's possible that I have forgotten
Your divine and birdlike profile,
That I have pushed past my own madness
Like one jumping through a hoop,
But always still your eyes will shine
Like bright chandeliers on the ceiling of my mind.

His poems are playful and cutting at the same time, and his grasp of language and all its capabilities is astounding. Readers will wonder about the subjects that are not clearly named, but at the same imagine their own obsession or loved one in their stead. Even without knowing the subject of poem 9, the reader can gather that the woman once held an esteemed place in the poet’s heart, but has now fallen into disgrace in his eyes. And yet, even though the love affair has gone downhill, she still is remembered fondly but will remain in the past.

From the traditional forms of sonnet to the less-than-traditional prose-like poetry in the collection, readers will get a sense of Proust’s evolution as a writer and his experiences as he saw them. The Collected Poems of Marcel Proust edited by Harold Augenbraum has a lot to offer readers, and while it is not necessary to read the French, those who can will have a richer experience.

About the Poet/Author:

Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust was a French novelist, critic, and essayist best known for his monumental novel In Search of Lost Time. It was published in seven parts between 1913 and 1927.

This is my 18th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

 

 

This is my 29th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

  • Glad you enjoyed it. I haven’t read anything by Proust, but if I were going to, I’d probably start with this book, since I liked the poem you included here.

    • I have not read his prose yet!

  • An interesting mix, weren’t they? He knew so many people it was hard to keep track of them all, but fun too. Do you have plans to give his prose a go sometime?

    • Stefanie, I’ve liked his poems before this collection, but I think if his prose is as poetic, I’d probably try it. Any suggestions where to start? With his masterpiece?

  • Ti

    I think it would be incredibly difficult to translate a poem and still have the same tone when you’re done.

    • I organized a translation reading at the local bookstore last year, and it was great to hear each of them talk about their approach. Naturally, it is easier to translate works when you can get the author/poet’s opinion on the translation.

  • I sometimes struggle with translated prose so I’ve avoided translated poems but I did enjoy the one you included in your post.

    • I have trouble with translated poems on occasion, but this collection uses the talents of several translators, and I think it was done very well.