Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Poets
ISBN: 9781681375007
Pages: 136
Publication Date: March 9, 2021

Alice Paalen Rahon

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. Along with her first husband, the artist Wolfgang Paalen, her circle included Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Joan Miró, Paul Éluard, Man Ray, and Anaïs Nin. Bicultural, bisexual, and fiercely independent, her romantic life included affairs with Pablo Picasso and the poet Valentine Penrose. This new selection of Rahon’s poems, included both in the original French and in translation by Mary Ann Caws, celebrates the visionary work of a woman who defied easy definition. Her spellbinding poems, inspired by prehistoric art, lost love, and her travels around the globe, weave together dream, fantasy, and madness.


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