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Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Poets
ISBN: 9781681375007
Pages: 248
Publication Date: September 14, 2021


by Alice Paalen Rahon, translated from the French by Mary Ann Caws

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Alice Paalen Rahon was a shapeshifter, a surrealist poet turned painter who was born French and died a naturalized citizen of Mexico. Her first husband was the artist Wolfgang Paalen, among her lovers were Pablo Picasso and the poet Valentine Penrose, and over the years her circle of friends included Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Joan Miró, Paul Éluard, Man Ray, and Anaïs Nin. This bilingual edition of Rahon’s poems confirms the achievement of this little-known but visionary writer who defies categorization. Her spellbinding poems, inspired by prehistoric art, lost love, and travels around the globe, weave together dream, fantasy, and madness. For the first time in any language, this book gathers the three collections of poetry Rahon published in her lifetime, along with uncollected and unpublished poems and an album of portraits, manuscript pages, and artworks.


Rahon is a "crossover" figure: her life straddles two continents; she works in words then paint; she has male and female sexual partners; she maintains lifelong allegiance to Surrealism but is a forerunner of Abstract Expressionism in Mexican art. As a poet in Europe in the prelude to Nazism and as a painter in exile, like other Surrealists she has a humanistic sensibility.
—Anna Kisby, Modern Poetry in Translation

[In Shapeshifter] Rahon rattles the cage of love unrealized, love yearning for release. . . Riches fill the collection.
—Mark William Norby, The Bay Area Reporter

A rich volume. . . Hypnotic and mesmerizing.
—Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings