A note on Valery Larbaud by Bill Zavatsky:
Poet, novelist, short-story writer, and belles-lettrist, Valery Larbaud was born in Vichy, France, in 1881. His father was the wealthy proprietor of a mineral water springs, and the family fortune freed Valery to pursue literature. His poetic influences included Walt Whitman, whom Larbaud translated. After years of work he published in 1908 a book called Poems by a Wealthy Amateur, the first appearance of Barnabooth, and then in 1913 expanded it into A. O. Barnabooth, His Complete Works, Being a Story, His Poems, and His Diary. Barnabooth, who never existed, mirrors Larbaud in his wealth and in his planetary search for a spiritual center. Often in frail health, but after publishing many books, Larbaud suffered a stroke in 1935 that left him partially aphasic. He died in 1957.
I always write with a mask upon my face,
Yes, a mask in the old Venetian style,
Long, with a low forehead,
Like a big muzzle of white satin.
Seated at my desk and raising my head
I look at myself in the mirror opposite
Me and three-quarters turned, I see me there,
That childish bestial profile that I love.
Oh, that some reader, my brother, to whom I speak
Through this pale and shining mask,
Might come and place a slow and heavy kiss
On this low forehead and cheek so pale,
All the more to press upon my face
That other face, hollow and perfumed.
-- Valery Larbaud
Translated from the French by Ron Padgett and Bill Zavatsky
from The Poems of A. O. Barnabooth by Valery Larbaud
(Boston: Black Widow Press, 2008
Line 9: some reader, my brother: This phrasing recalls Charles
Baudelaire’s poem “Au lecteur” (“To the Reader”), which addresses a “hypocrite
lecteur,—mon semblable, mon frere ("hypocritical reader -- my double -- my brother"). -- BZ