The Dice Cup by Max Jacob, translated by Ian Seed / ISBN 9781939663863 / 264-page paperback with flaps from Wakefield Press, published in 2022
The most important prose-poem collection of the 20th century, available in a trade publication for the first time
Max Jacob’s role in French modernity was essential, and with this second volume of his work from Wakefield Press, it can now be fully and properly assessed. First published in 1917, The Dice Cup stands alongside Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen, Rimbaud’s Illuminations and Pierre Reverdy’s Prose Poems as one of the most important and foundational books of prose poetry. Jacob has been identified as a “cubist poet,” but this collection and its shifting style escape any such easy definition: dream accounts are rendered in playful prose that thumbs its nose at the fabular tradition of Baudelaire and Mallarmé and the Romantic disorder of Rimbaud, and subverts both poetic and narrative expectations in favor of dream logic, allusion, transformed autobiography and nonsensical parody. At once mystical and burlesque, the prose poems of Dice Cup are consciously constructed, yet as unstable and unfixed as both Jacob’s personality and our own.
Max Jacob (1876–1944) was a French poet, painter, writer and critic. A key figure of bohemian Montmartre and the Cubist era, he rubbed shoulders with Apollinaire and Modigliani and was a lifelong friend to Picasso, Gris and Cocteau. Jacob converted from Judaism to Christianity in 1915. Arrested by the Gestapo in 1944, he died in a deportation camp of pneumonia. Rosanna Warren's critically acclaimed biography of Jacob was published in 2020.