Monday, November 28, 2005

The Rebel: Poems by Charles Baudelaire. Translated by Leslie H. Whitten Jr. ( Presa S Press Rockford, MI. 49341 PO BOX 792) $7

Leslie H. Whitten has translated a collection of poetry by Charles Baudelaire. Baudelaire who was born in Paris in 1821; seemed to have a bone to pick with society-at-large, and most importantly with complacency.
He seemed to be deathly afraid of conformity, and had a terminal fear of “boredom.” Called by some: “a bored Satanist,” his poetry is laced with invectives against the status quo. In his poem: “To The Reader,” the most fearsome of the devil’s spawn, is quite a banal thing:

One is more ugly, cruel, the filthiest of the spawn!
He never gestures, shouts, his manner is not rash,
Yet he would make of earth a heaping bin of trash
Or gobble up the world with one enormous yawn.

His name is Boredom! In his eyes a tear or two.
He smokes a hookah, dreams of gallows tree.
You know him, reader, this effete monstrosity.
Hypocrite reader, you, my image—brother—You!

I have been introduced to Rimbaud as well as Baudelaire by Eric Greinke and the Presa Press, the publisher of this collection. I don’t pretend to be a judge of translations, but the poet laureate of France opined of Whitten’s work: “…you will find here a poet-translator who steers between the dangers of expansive ego and slavish transcription. Whitten… has found the rare and fragile metric devices to orchestrate and give nuance…”

Doug Holder/Ibbetson Update/ Nov. 2005

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