Gustaf Sobin

Gustaf Sobin. Courtesy W.W. Norton & Co..

Gustaf Sobin (November 15, 1935 - July 7, 2005) was an expatriate American poet and prose author who spent most of his adult life in France.


Sobin was born in Boston.

He attended the Choate School and Brown University

He moved to Paris in 1962. Eventually he settled in the village of Goult, Provence, where he remained for over 40 years, publishing more than a dozen books of poetry, 4 novels, a children's story, and 2 compilations of essays.[1]

He published many books across different genres: fiction, essays, and translations (including a translation of Henri Michaux's Ideograms in China, a prose poem about Chinese orthography). More recent translations include The Brittle Age and Returning Upland, two volumes from Char's work of the mid to late 1960s that Sobin chose to translate in full, published posthumously in 2009, side by side with Char's French text.

Among his many books are Breath's Burials (poetry, New Directions, 1995), Luminous Debris (1999) and Ladder of Shadows (2008) (essays, University of California Press), and Collected Poetry (2010). Among his works of fiction are the novels The Fly Truffler (about the art of truffle-hunting in Southern France), and In Pursuit of a Vanishing Star, which is a chronicle of a brief period of Greta Garbo's early acting career.

Sobin maintained his expatriate status until his death in July, 2005, of pancreatic cancer at the age of 69.

Sobin was survived by his wife, Susannah Bott, his daughter Esther, his son Gabriel, an older brother Harris (now deceased), of Phoenix, Arizona, and his devoted cousin, Mikki Ansin of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Sobin's brother Harris, an architect and architectural historian, designed the rehabilitation of Gustaf Sobin's residence and 2 additions for a historic stone cocoonery in Provence, France.[1]

Before his death, Sobin named U.S. poets Andrew Joron and Andrew Zawacki as the co-executors of his literary estate.[1]


After studies with René Char, Gustaf Sobin developed a poetic style that relies heavily on assonance and consonance, as well as other methods of the sonic organization of speech.



  • Wind Chrysalid's Rattle. Montemora, 1980.[2]
  • The Earth As Air. New York: New Directions, 1984.
  • Sicilian Miniatures. San Francisco, CA: Cadmus Editions, 1986.
  • Voyaging Portraits. New York: New Directions, 1988.
  • Breath's Burials. New York: New Directions, 1995.
  • By the Bias of Sound. Selected poems, 1974-1994. Jersey City, NJ: Talisman House, 1995.
  • Articles of Light & Elation. San Francisco, CA: Cadmus Editions, 1998.
  • Towards the Blanched Alphabets. Jersey City, NJ: Talisman House, 1998.
  • In the Name of the Neither. Jersey City, NJ: Talisman House, 2002.
  • The Places as Preludes. Jersey City, NJ: Talisman House, 2005.
  • Collected Poems (edited by Esther Sobin, Andrew Joron, Andrew Zawacki, & Edward Foster). Jersey City, NJ: Talisman House, 2010.


  • The Fly-Truffler: A novel. New York: Norton, 2000.[2]


  • Luminous Debris: Reflecting on vestige in Provence and Languedoc. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000.[3]
  • Ladder of Shadows: Reflecting on medieval vestige in Provence and Languedoc. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2009.[4]


  • René Char, The Brittle Age. Counterpath Press, 2009.[5]
  • René Char, Returning Upland. Counterpath Press, 2009.[5]
Gustaf Sobin Tribute Reading 5 of 9

Gustaf Sobin Tribute Reading 5 of 9

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy Shearsman Books.[6]

See also Edit




  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 University of Arizona Poetry Center,Words Through: a Tribute to Gustaf Sobin On the occasion of the publication of Sobin's Collected Poetry March 2010. This Bibliography was featured on this page. This tribute took place on Saturday, March 6, 2010, and featured Charles Alexander, Edward Foster, Andrew Joron, Tedi López Mills, Jeffrey Miller, Michael Palmer, Harris Sobin, and Andrew Zawacki
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kathryn Shattyck, Gustaf Sobin, 69, a Writer Who Celebrated Provence, Is Dead, New York Times, July 12, 2005. Web, Apr. 23, 2013.
  3. Luminous Debris, University of California Press, University of California. Web, Apr. 23, 2013.
  4. Ladder of Shadows, University of California Press, University of California. Web, Apr. 23, 2013.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Ron Silliman's blog, November 2, 2009. Blogspot, Web, Apr. 23, 2013.
  6. Gustaf Sobin, American Poets N-Z, Shearsman Books. Web, Apr. 23, 2013.

External links Edit

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