"How well does Padgett apply these laudable [translation] precepts in this book? In two words: amazingly well. When I read the poems in French, I kept thinking “Now how can you possibly put that into English?” Then I looked at the facing text. And thought, to paraphrase Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, “By God, he’s got it! He’s really got it!” It’s like watching a little boat in high seas: how can it possibly make that wave, and that one? But it does, easily: it just floats up and over them. Padgett makes it look easy. We translators know nothing is harder than that." —David Ball, Translation Review
"In Zone, Selected Poems by Guillaume Apollinaire, Ron Padgett demonstrates that translators should be willing to sometimes mistranslate in order to revivify a text’s more distinctive formal characteristics. Idiosyncrasies and dalliances abound in Padgett’s judicious sampling (as they do in Apollinaire’s oeuvre)...One of the joys of reading Zone is discovering the utter range of Padgett’s stylings as both translator and poet...Zone contains Apollinaire’s ambiguous vapors and punchy crystallizations alike, though it also succeeds in materializing what we love most about Padgett." —Dylan Furcall, BOMB
"Padgett has translated forty-seven poems by Apollinaire for this handy bilingual Selected Poems, which, moreover, is excellently introduced both by the translator and by Peter Read." —John Taylor, ArtsFuse
“The one poet of our time who, in lightness and depth of inspiration, in spontaneity and clarity of expression… can stand beside Sappho, Anacreon, Alcaeus.” —The American Poetry Review
“One of the most fascinating and elusive figures of modern French poetry.” —Scott Bates, French Review
“Apollinaire’s distinction lies in his being the first poet of our age who is ‘modern’ and popular at the same time, modern in his many technical and thematic innovations and popular in his simple directness of speech.” —The Kenyon Review
Praise for Guillaume Apollinaire:
“The poetry of Guillaume Apollinaire is like no other: clear, full of light, bright with movement, with the transparency of flowing water. Even from the chalk trenches of the First World War, it sings like love, compassionate and friendly, in a French the language had only dreamed of before he wrote.”—Translation and Literature
Praise for Ron Padgett’s translations:
“A superb translation! Ron Padgett, himself an important poet, catches precisely the French poet’s rhythms, his colloquialisms, his racy diction and emotional resonances.”—Marjorie Perloff
“No praise can be too high for Ron Padgett’s translations.”—Dominic Di Bernardi, The Washington Post Book World
Guillaume Apollinaire (1880–1918) was born Wilhelm Apollinaris de Kostrowitzky in Rome, the illegitimate son of an impoverished Polish woman and an Italian army officer. He spent his boyhood on the French Riviera with his mother and younger brother, Albert, attending schools in Monaco, Cannes, and Nice, until the family moved to Paris in 1899. Apollinaire did not pass the baccalauréat but began writing on his own, leaving Paris in 1901 to work as a private tutor for a family in the Rhineland for two years. Upon his return to Paris, he was employed as a bank clerk while writing plays and essays and becoming acquainted with Symbolist poets and playwrights, avant-garde musicians, choreographers, and visual artists, such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Henri Rousseau, and Marcel Duchamp. In 1910 Apollinaire published a collection of short stories, L’Hérésiarque et cie, that was nominated for the Goncourt Prize, and in 1913 he published his first significant collection of poetry, Alcools. At the onset of World War I, Apollinaire joined the French army, first serving as a member of the artillery division and then as part of the infantry fighting on the front lines where he suffered a head wound in March 1916. He returned to Paris and oversaw the production a year later of his play Les Mamelles de Tirésias, a work in which the word “surréaliste” appears for the first time. A major influence on the artists and writers who would come to be known as surrealists, Apollinaire died of influenza two days before Armistice Day.
Ron Padgett is a poet and translator whose Collected Poems won the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America and the 2014 Los Angeles Times Prize for the best poetry book. Padgett has translated the poetry of Apollinaire, Pierre Reverdy, Valery Larbaud, and Blaise Cendrars.
Peter Read is a professor of modern French literature and visual arts at the University of Kent, Canterbury, United Kingdom. He has published books and essays on Apollinaire and his circle, on other French poets, and on artists including Pablo Picasso, Raoul Dufy, Auguste Rodin, and Alberto Giacometti.