In Memoriam: Yves Bonnefoy (1923–2016)


French poet, translator, and critic Yves Bonnefoy (1923–2016) died on July 1, 2016. Professor emeritus and former chair of the comparative study of poetry (following the death of Roland Barthes) at the Collège de France, Bonnefoy was regarded by many, including the French president François Hollande and the Encyclopedia Britannica, as one of the most important poets of the second half of the twentieth century. Frequently speculated to be a candidate for the Nobel Prize, Bonnefoy was the recipient of many prizes in his lifetime, including the Prix Goncourt and the Griffin Lifetime Recognition Award.

Bonnefoy was the author of more than 100 books, among them original collections of poetry, art and literary criticism, compilations on mythology, and works in translation (those of Shakespeare and Yeats, most prominently).

The University of Chicago Press published four of those books—The Act and the Place of Poetry: Selected Essays (1989), In the Shadow’s Light (1991), New and Selected Poems (1995), Shakespeare and the French Poet (2004)—along with several volumes in his Mythologies series. In recent years, Seagull Books has published several additional works, including The Arrière-Pays (2012), The Present Hour (2013), Rue Traversière (1972; 2015), The Digamma (2014), The Anchor’s Long Chain (2015), and Ursa Major (forthcoming 2016).

From the BBC:

In his writing, he said he tried to capture some of primal emotions that he associated with his own happy childhood. In his poetry, he tried to seek “what is immediate in life” by staying faithful to the “truth of language.”

“A poet’s job is to show us a tree, before our mind tells us what a tree is,” said Bonnefoy.

To read more about Bonnefoy’s works published or distributed by the University of Chicago Press, click here.