CAMBRIDGE, MA.- Exact Change just published Pablo Picasso - The Burial of the Count of Orgaz & Other Poems, edited with introductions by Jerome Rothenberg & Pierre Joris, afterword by Michel Leiris. Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) is arguably the most famous and influential artist of the twentieth century. What few in the English speaking world know is that in 1935, at age 54, an emotional crisis caused Picasso to halt all painting and devote himself entirely to poetry. Even after resuming his visual work, Picasso continued to write, in a characteristic torrent, until 1959, leaving a body of prose poems that André Breton praised as, an intimate journal, both of the feelings and the senses, such as has never been kept before. Similarly struck by the poems originality, Michel Leiris wrote, If we must compare him, despite his fierce singularity, in order to try and situate him on the literary map, I see only James Joyce. Near the end of his life, Picasso himself was quoted as having told a friend that, long after his death his writing would gain recognition and encyclopedias would say: Picasso, Pablo Ruiz Spanish poet who dabbled in painting, drawing and sculpture.
For the past five years, poets Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris have overseen a project to translate the majority of this writing into English for the first time. Working from Picassos original Spanish and French (he wrote in both languages), they enlisted the help of over a dozen contemporary poets in order to mark, as they note in their introduction, Picassos entry into our own time. This is indeed a new Picasso for most of us, or rather, a renewed Picasso: the poems are as protean, erotic, scatalogical, and experimental in form as his visual art has always been described. But amid the ubiquitious posters, t-shirts, and tchotkes, how many of us have truly felt the impact of Picassos visual work as powerfully as it was perceived in the first half of the twentieth century? The poems give us a twenty-first century Picasso, free of cliché. Perhaps they will even help spark a revival of interest in his dabblings.