No more Baudelaire

I know this is an unpopular opinion, and I suspect it will offend many people, but here goes. I am declaring a moratorium on any and all further translations of Charles Baudelaire. Unless you are actually Edna St.-Vincent Millay, Michael Field, Stanley Kunitz, or Richard Wilbur, you are no longer permitted to translate, adapt, emulate, or mimic Baudelaire. The English language is saturated with Baudelaireanisms. “Spleen,” “pussycats,” “flowers of evil” … The English tongue is crying, ENOUGH!

Find another French or Francophone poet to translate. Find several. Norman Shapiro’s anthology The Distaff and the Pen would be a very good place to start. Mary Ann Caws’ Twentieth-Century French Poetry would be another.

You may think I am joking, but that is not the case. I am perfectly serious. There are many, so many other poets to choose from! A few, such as Marie de France, Anna de Noailles, and Renée Vivien have already been translated into English. (Full disclosure: I am a translator of Renée Vivien.) And yet these translations have gone, for the most part, unread. Wherefore so? Because American poets and publishers just can’t get past Baudelaire. Or if they do, it is only to loiter among Apollinaire, Rimbaud, and Verlaine.

So please — I am begging — no more translations of white, cis, male French poets! Anglophone translators, start your google searches with “femmes poètes,” “auteures,” or “écrivaines.” Learn something about the writers of “Négritude.” But for pity’s sake — clémence — merci! Que Charles Baudelaire soit enfin banni!


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