This uncompleted suite of poems by French poet Arthur Rimbaud was first published serially in the Paris literary review magazine "La Vogue." The magazine published part of "Illuminations" from May to June 1886. Paul Verlaine, Rimbaud's lover, suggested the publication of these poems, written between 1873 and 1875, in book form. All forty-two of the poems generally considered as part of "Illuminations" are collected together here in this edition. Of these forty-two poems almost all are in a prose poem format, the two exceptions are "Seapiece" and "Motion", which are vers libre. There is no universally defined order to the poems in "Illuminations", while many scholars believe the order of the poems to be irrelevant, this edition begins traditionally with "Après Le Deluge" or "After the Flood." Albert Camus hailed Rimbaud as "the poet of revolt, and the greatest." The worth of this praise for Rimbaud can be seen in "Illuminations", one of the most exemplary works of his poetic talent.
The prose poems of Illuminations include Rimbaud's most exotic ecstasies and most insistent contradictions, as well as (most likely) his last completed works: "crystal boulevards rise up and intersect, immediately populated by poor families who shop for groceries at the fruit seller's," while "the inevitable descent of the sky and visiting memories and the s ance of rhythms occupy the home, the head and the world of the mind." Some may wonder whether we need yet another version of this much-translated book. But anything Ashbery does deserves attention, given his own towering reputation. Ashbery also lived in France for much of the 1960s and has translated several French moderns before. His versions of Rimbaud can be playful, even flirtatious, with an undercurrent of malice wholly true to the original ("Very robust rascals" for "Des dr les tr s solides"), and they pay attention to the ear: the poem "Bottom," for example, begins with a tussle of long "e" and short "i" sounds: "Since reality was too prickly for my lavish personality." Ashbery's Rimbaud (perhaps paired with Donald Revell's) should spark fresh discussion of the mercurial and evasive original, given often to dreamy reverie, yet just as likely to turn and spit in the unsuspecting reader's face. Presented with the original French en face.