Love Sonnets and Elegies

Overview

Louise Labé is commonly regarded as the most original woman poet of the French Renaissance. The daughter of an illiterate rope maker in Lyon, known to her contemporaries for her unusual learning as well as her skills as a singer and lutanist, Labé was in her thirties when she published her complete Works in 1555 and then disappeared from the scene, not to be rediscovered until the nineteenth century. Her love poetry, made famous by Rilke’s German versions, is published here with the originals en face and newly ...

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Love Sonnets and Elegies

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Overview

Louise Labé is commonly regarded as the most original woman poet of the French Renaissance. The daughter of an illiterate rope maker in Lyon, known to her contemporaries for her unusual learning as well as her skills as a singer and lutanist, Labé was in her thirties when she published her complete Works in 1555 and then disappeared from the scene, not to be rediscovered until the nineteenth century. Her love poetry, made famous by Rilke’s German versions, is published here with the originals en face and newly rendered into English by award-winning translator Richard Sieburth, who also includes a biographical chronology of the poet, notes, and an informative afterword to this edition. These Love Sonnets and Elegies confirm Labé’s reputation as the first modern Sappho.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The deeply learned Louise Labé knew well the love poetry of Sappho, Propertius, Ovid, and Petrarch, but she herself joined the ranks of these great Western tossers and turners by breaking with convention. Across five centuries, thanks to Richard Sieburth’s beautiful translations, her urgent voice, her embodied images, and her rapid, somehow breathless, lines come to us as if they were spoken yesterday.” —Susan Stewart

“Richard Sieburth has captured the vigor, intensity, and vernacular tang of Louise Labé’s startling poems. He has turned the ‘rhymed cordage  as twined and tensile as rope’ of the fabled Belle Cordière, daughter of a ropemaker, into spirited poems in English.” —Rosanna Warren                

"[Labé] laments for one alone, but the whole of nature unites with them: it is the lament for one who is eternal." — Rainer Maria Rilke
 
“A great poet, perhaps one of the greatest of all time.” —The Polar Bear, a character in Samuel Beckett’s Dream of Fair to middling Women

From the Publisher
"The deeply learned Louise Labé knew well the love poetry of Sappho, Propertius, Ovid, and Petrarch, but she herself joined the ranks of these great Western tossers and turners by breaking with convention. Across five centuries, thanks to Richard Sieburth's beautiful translations, her urgent voice, her embodied images, and her rapid, somehow breathless, lines come to us as if they were spoken yesterday. Was she real or a fantasy? If we cannot tell, there is no doubt regarding the reality, and the fantastic force of life, pulsing here in her poems." —Susan Stewart

"Whoever Louise Labé was or was not—and scholars are still wrangling about it—her collection of poems, published in Lyon in 1555, introduced a startling new voice into French lyric. Richard Sieburth has captured the vigor, directness, vernacular tang, and intensity of these remarkable poems. He has turned the 'rhymed cordage as twined and tensile as rope' of the fabled Belle Cordière, daughter of a rope-maker, into spirited poems in English, and his Afterword presents the phenomenon of Labé in the context of the sophisticated, male-dominated literary culture of 16th century Lyon with force and scholarly clarity. A book of brilliant homage and recreation." —Rosanna Warren

"[Labé] laments for one alone, but the whole of nature unites with them: it is the lament for one who is eternal." — Rainer Maria Rilke
 
“A great poet, perhaps one of the greatest of all time.” —The Polar Bear, a character in Samuel Beckett’s Dream of Fair to middling Women

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590177310
  • Publisher: New York Review Books
  • Publication date: 4/8/2014
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 776,424
  • Product dimensions: 4.50 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Louise Labé (c. 1522–1566) was a member of the sixteenth-century Lyon school of humanist poets dominated by Maurice Scève. Her wit, charm, and accomplishments, and the freedom she enjoyed provoked unverifiable legends, such as those claiming she rode to war, took to dressing like a man, and was a cultured courtesan known as La Belle Cordière (the Beautiful Rope Maker). In addition to love sonnets and elegies, Labé’s works include a dedicatory letter advocating women’s education and writing, and a philosophical prose dialogue, Débat de Folie et d’Amour (The Debate Between Folly and Love).
 
Richard Sieburth’s translations include Friedrich Hölderlin’s Hymns and Fragments, Walter Benjamin’s Moscow Diary, Gérard de Nerval’s Selected Writings and The Salt Smugglers, Henri Michaux’s Emergences/Resurgences and Stroke by Stroke, Michel Leiris’s Nights as Day, Days as Night, and Gershom Scholem’s poetry. His translation of Maurice Scève’s Délie was a finalist for the PEN Poetry Translation Prize and the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize.
 
Karin Lessing is an American poet who was born in Görlitz, a town now split by the German/Polish border, and emigrated to the United States at an early age. She has published five collections of poetry, most recently Collected Poems. Lessing has been living in the Lubéron area of Provence since 1962.

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