Eugene Guillevic

20th Century French Poet

Portrait of Eugene GuillevicEugene Guillevic

Eugene Guillevic

Eugene Gullevic (1907–1997) was a French poet born in Brittany. After receiving a degree in mathematics, Gullevic was placed into civil service, serving with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs amongst others posts. He sympathized with the Communists during the Spanish Civil War, joining the Communist Party in 1942. He received the Prix Goncourt for poetry in 1988.

cover image of the book Selected Poems of Guillevic

Selected Poems of Guillevic

Guillevic is one of the most highly regarded among living French poets but, although he gave readings in New York and Montreal in 1968, he is still too little known on this side of the Atlantic. Now this bilingual collection of his work, chosen from six of his books published between 1942 and 1966, and translated by the poet Denise Levertov, should bring him the wider audience his work deserves. Guillevic was born in Carnac in 1907 of peasant stock. He sees the profoundly austere Breton landscapes (and all else in life) not as incidental backgrounds, but as elemental, living presences. His poems embody his indignation at the use and misuse of some human beings by others—as well as his cold and clear understanding of historical process. Like William Carlos Williams, he has a sharp eye, and as Miss Levertov points out in her introduction, “… the simplicity of diction, the plain and hard meaning of things without descriptive qualification, reverberates, in the highly charged condensation of Guillevic’s poems, with the ambiguity, the unfathomable mystery of natural objects.” In translating these poems, Denise Levertov has drawn upon the affinity that exists between her own style and Guillevic’s. She has attained comparable effects of concision and clarity and has reproduced with great subtlety the characteristic rhythm and cadence patterns of the French originals.

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