Yves Bonnefoy (1923-2016), a major poet, was equally a seminal essayist and thinker. This companion volume to Yves Bonnefoy: Poems contains what he regarded as his foundational essays, as well as a generous selection from all periods. In his art criticism, as in his literary essays, Bonnefoy manages that rare thing: to impart metaphysical urgency to each discreet encounter with a painting or a poem, born of his constant quest for intensity, for 'presence'.
Whether he is examining an early Byzantine fresco, a Shakespeare play, a Bernini angel, a drawing by Blake, a poem by Rimbaud, the exigency, the high seriousness and the challenge is the same: to affirm presence, and finitude, against all forms of life-sapping conceptual thought. If they cannot always deliver ecstasy or hope, the great poets, argues Bonnefoy, are pledged to 'intensity as such', sustained by 'une mélancolie ardente'.