Shapiro Translates de Noailles’ French Poetry Collection

Book translated by Norman Shapiro.

Book translated by Norman Shapiro.

Norman Shapiro, professor of romance languages and literatures, translated Comtesse Anna de Noailles’ A Life of Poems, Poems of a Life. The poetry collection was published by Black Widow Press in 2012.

A poet whose reputation has lasted beyond the popularity of her actual works, de Noailles was respected and beloved by France’s literary and lay population alike, counting among her admirers such figures as Proust, Cocteau, Colette and many others. Seemingly unconcerned with the tenets of this or that poetic school, she tuned the traditional elements of French prosody to her personal lyrical use, refusing however to be straitjacketed by their limitations. Without abandoning its meters and rhymes, she was not against taking liberties with both when the flow of her inspiration demanded; an inspiration often lush and musical, often visual, now synesthically sensual and even erotic, as much at home in evoking the eternal as in rhapsodizing briefly on the Parnassian plasticity of her cat. Noailles’ technique and talent transcended her gender. When an article in the London Times, in 1913, called her “the greatest poet that the 20th century has produced in France-perhaps in Europe,” and when the poet Leon Paul-Fargue supposedly referred to her as “our last inspired poet,” neither saw fit to modify the word “poet” with the word “woman.”