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Selected Poems Paperback – 1 Feb 1982

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Product details

  • Paperback: 143 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (1 Feb. 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811208559
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811208550
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.2 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,252,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Poems by the Nobel prizewinner deal with the regeneration of life, the purity of nature, and our relationship with time and the world.

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Franklin on 24 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The selection is very good, ranging over all the periods of his writing and with long extracts where full works couldn't be put in. A decent introduction explaining Perse's life and works also - which is something of a necessity for the English audience, I feel, despite his being a Nobel Prize winner.
However, if you have not read Perse before I would STRONGLY recommend that you find at least one example of his poetry only to taste before you splash out on this book. It is highly unusual and very dense. It is certainly not going to be everyone's taste. Indeed, it will not be for many people's taste as it would seem to offer very little to most readers.
I put the book down because I was simply getting nothing from the poems in it.

[The book is great - a great selection - but the poetry is perhaps passed over today for a good reason!]
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
An unusual figure that should be brought back to popular attention 5 Sept. 2007
By Christopher Culver - Published on
Format: Paperback
Of all the poets who have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the 1960 Nobel laureate Saint-John Perse (1887-1975) is one of the least read today. It was only through the composers Elliott Carter and Kaija Saariaho, who have written music inspired by his poetry, that I discovered the man. Yet, he is a fascinating figure, whose poetric voice is completely unlike that of his peers in 20th-century France. Mary Ann Caws has done a great service here by assembling selections from all Perse's works, in authoritative translations by figures like T.S. Eliot and Robert Fitzgerald.

Saint-John Perse was the pen-name of Alexis Leger, who rose to the very top of the French foreign ministry before he was deprived of his French citizenship by the Vichy government in 1940 and sailed to America. A diplomat who had gone to exotic non-Western countries like China, Perse set much of his poetry in some kind of anonymous Oriental civilization that could have been Persia or Ur or Cilicia, with desert sands, agorae, and altars. The poetry after his residency in America, the bulk of his oeuvre, adds a persistent interest in exile as the natural state of man. Perse wrote no real short poems; all of his poems are very long and epic in scale.

Not only are Perse's poetic themes unusual, but the poetic language itself is remarkable indeed. While Perse often stuck to the alexandrine, the standard metre of French poetry, his mature poetry was generally formatted into paragraphs. The major sections of the poems are often delineated by repeated calls, as when in "Amers" (Seamarks) we find:

"Poésie pour accompagner la marche d'une récitation en l'honneur de la Mer. / Poésie pour assister le chant d'une marche au pourtour de la Mer. / Comme l'entreprise du tour d'autel et la gravitation du choeur au circuit de la strophe."

Perse's poetry is by no means flawless. I find the poem "Pluies" (Rains) something of a failure. Even in the very best poetry Perse often resorts to clumsy alliteration, as in "Exil" when one finds "O Manieur d'aigles par leus angles, et Nourrisseur de filles les plus aigres souns la plume de fer." Furthermore, I'm unhappy that Caws left out the one passage from "Amers" (beginning "Et vous, Mers...") that is probably the most talked-about of the poem. Nonetheless, Perse is an exciting poet that is unfairly neglected today. Consider getting Roger Little's guide Saint-John Perse alongside this.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A great way to start reading nobel prize winner Sain-John Perse 3 May 2013
By Gabriel Harfield Pinheiro - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Saint-John Perse is probably the most mysterious french poet of all times. He was a very important diplomat exiled, during the second world war, in Long Beach Island, US. There he started writing again and became the poet that years later won the Nobel Prize. His poems are dense, very hard to understand, with a lot of unusual words inspired by very specific hobbies studies (like biology, geology etc.). Those Selected Poems are the best way to enter Perse's world since it have some great translations, made by great american writers like T.S Eliot and F.S Fitzgerald, and embrace all the different stages of his life and his work. A must have for everyone who loves contemporary poetry and french poetry.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Anabasis is Abridged! 30 Jun. 2014
By Just Some Guy - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was disappointed to discover that Perse's most famous poem (at least in English), Anabasis, is abridged in this book. The book is still worth getting as it does provide a great overview of his work, and Perse's tropical imagery is unmatched. Nevertheless, if you're looking for the full version of his most famous poem, look elsewhere.
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