In John Ashbery's haunting 1992 collection, just as in the traveler's experience of a hotel, we recognize everything, and yet nothing is familiar--not even ourselvesHotel Lautréamont invites readers to reimagine a book of poems as a collection of hotel rooms: each one empty until we enter it, and yet in truth abundantly furnished with associations, necessities, and echoes of both the known and the alien. The collection's title poem is itself an evocative echo: Comte de Lautréamont was the pseudonym taken by Isidore-Lucien Ducasse, a radical nineteenth-century French writer about whom little is known except that he produced one remarkable presymbolist epic prose poem called The Songs of Maldoror and died of fever at the age of twenty-four in a hotel in Paris during Napoleon III's siege of the city in 1870. Addressed to lonely ghosts, lingering guests, and others, the poems in Hotel Lautréamont present a study of exile, loss, meaning, and the artistic constructions we create to house them.
- 1927 John Ashbery
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