a poet of trancendence, seeking through language ways in which things of the world can be transformed and elevated into exceptional beauty and delight. Influenced by Robert duncan, Robert creeley, and René Char, among others, his work bridges American and French poetic traditions. He has spent his life as a writer entirely in France, which provides the setting for much of his work.
Born and reared in Boston, Sobin graduated from Brown University in 1957. He met the poet René Char, who invited him to his home in Provence in 1962. The following year Sobin made Provence his permanent home and learned "how to read the landscape [there] as one might read a text, a textus, a woven fabric" (Foster 27). Provence provided him with time and freedom for the intensive study of poetry and its potential transformative powers, a study that included discussions with Char and the philosopher Martin Heidegger. Sobin's first book of poems, Wind Chrysalid's Rattle appeared in 1980. Voyaging Portraits (1988) includes "Portrait of the Self as Instrument of Its Syllables," a key work in understanding Sobin's poetics. His selected poems, By the Bias of Sound, appeared in 1995. Luminous Debris: Reflecting on Vestige in Provence and Languedoc (2000) is a series of meditations on ancient objects and places in his adopted homeland. To most readers Sobin is better known for his fiction than for his poetry. His novels include The Fly-Truffler (2000), a best-seller that has been frequently translated. Similar to his essays and much of his poetry, the novel is set in Provence and involves transformations of the ordinary through language, inner vision, and imagination.
The specifics of landscapes and objects are necessary preconditions for Sobin's poetry. The capacity of language to suggest possibilities beyond one's immediate grasp of geography and objects, thereby going beyond the surfaces of the ordinary and everyday world, gives his poetry its fundamental dynamics. "Portrait of the
Self as Instrument of Its Syllables" records this process through the final gathering of words into a poem, which is then seen as a "luminous salvage." Releasing one from the surfaces of the ordinary and everyday, language becomes an end in itself: As Sobin says in "Transparent Itineraries: 1999," collected in In the Name of the Neither (2002), language is "a density . . . in the service of its own evanescent releases."
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