‘These are birds, pure and simple, nothing more, their truth the secret of life itself . . .’
Derek Mahon’s previous translation work includes versions of Jaccottet (Words in the Air, 1998) and Valéry (The Seaside Cemetery, 2001). To these he now adds Birds by Saint-John Perse whose long, discursive, musical texts owe something to Rimbaud’s Illuminations but are finally unique.
Among twentieth-century poets Perse is remarkable for his ‘oceanic’ qualities, his global reach and philosophical optimism. Birds is about birds, but also about the artistic vocation itself, Yeats’s ‘lonely impulse of delight’.