Victor Hugo (1802 – 1885) is revered as a great Romantic poet and political activist in his native France, but he is better known in the US for his novels, including Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The former was brought to stage as musical in London in 1985 and ran on Broadway from 1987 to 2003; the 2012 film adaptation won several Golden Globes and Oscars.
Julie Kane, the 2011 – 2013 Louisiana Poet Laureate, is a Professor of English at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Her most recent poetry collection is Paper Bullets (White Violet Press, 2014). Her translations from French and co-translations from Lithuanian have appeared in Blue Lyra Review, The Drunken Boat, Louisiana English Journal, Nimrod, and Druskininkai Poetic Fall 2005. She also authored the essay “Francophone Poets of the U.S.” in The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics.
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 – 1926) born René Karl Wilhelm Johann Josef Maria Rilke, understood the power of words. At a lover’s urging, he changed his name to Rainer, which he thought sounded more masculine. He is probably the best-known 20th-century German-language poet, best known for his Duino Elegies, his Sonnets to Orpheus, and his New Poems. In the Duino Elegies—his most important work—and his other poems, Rilke combined knowledge of classical literature with a mystical sense of existence and religion.
Maria Picone is a student at Goddard College’s low-residency MFA program and has degrees in philosophy from Rice and Princeton. She taught herself French after she attended a Descartes seminar as an undergraduate, in which she was the only one who couldn’t read French. Since then she has read not only philosophy but a wide range of literature in the original. She also has a personal affinity for French because she grew up hearing her grandmother often sing or curse in the language.