The Reluctant Assassin by Étienne d'Abattoir

Johnny Payne


ISBN  978-1-952419-92-8        84 pages           $18.00


Étienne D’Abattoir, the inveterate writer, romantic, and lover of French poetry, offers witty and understated insights into the world and the company he keeps, as his restless feet travel from Paris to Dubrovnik, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Peru, El Paso, and Los Angeles. Tender and ruthless in his wandering and wondering, he is the most reluctant of assassins.



“If you’ve ever wondered:


1. If the genius of 13th-century troubadour and anti-Cathar bishop Folquet de Marselha can ever be adequately communicated (where’s a Provençal dictionary when you need one?)

2. What the point is in developing the ability to write Alexandrine syllabic verses

3.How most contemporary poetry and criticism seem to be sortings from an MFA-staffed recycling center


Étienne d’Abattoir has the answers!


In this delightful collection of 10 essays, our guide is a casual polyglot, a “less dyspeptic Gombrowicz” with disarming Gallic sophistication. Supported by an “embarrassingly small trust fund,” Abbatoir travels globe and history, recording impressions of poets, their lives and work in wickedly amusing academic-babble.


What makes this collection something to be savored — I limited myself to one essay a day — is the author’s underlying seriousness of purpose. The Reluctant Assassin brilliantly explores the impossibility of either translating a poem originally written in another language / time, or even attempting to explain a poet’s imagery and intent. This all comes together in a fascinating commentary on how we read and understand poetry, how we appreciate — and don’t — poets.”


— James Gaynor, author of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 61 Haiku (1,037 Syllables!) and Everything Becomes a Poem

Johnny Payne is a poet, novelist, playwright, essayist, and librettist.  He has directed his plays Touchstone, Cannibals, and Los Feliz.  Payne is Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles.

He is a native of Kentucky.