‘Apollinaire: Selected Poems’

Let’s just put one thing out there: I’ve always loved surrealist poetry. Eluard, Char, Desnos. Awesome. All of them.

Apollinaire, though maybe not a surrealist, or perhaps proto-surrealist, shares one thing with all those poets I mentioned: he is very readable.

Surrealist poetry gets a bad reputation (Real surrealist poetry. The classics. Couldn’t tell you why. It’s classified as something difficult and weird, but while it contains some interesting leaps, it’s almost invariably a far less taxing read than Eliot or Frost [who has undeserved reputation for being easy to read; he’s only easy if you don’t bother to understand him, for example, Road Not Taken is about the lies you tell people to explain your past decisions; there, I’ve said; it has nothing to do with being different or taking a less traveled road because you’re awesome and unique – and do you know why? BECAUSE BOTH ROADS LOOKED EXACTLY THE SAME! THERE WAS NO ‘ROAD LESS TRAVELED’ SO STOP READING THAT POEM AS SOME SORT OF PAEAN TO BEING INDIVIDUALISTIC BECAUSE IT’S ACTUALLY A PAEAN TO LYING TO YOUR GRANDKIDS ABOUT WHY YOU DIDN’T TAKE THAT JOB IN BILL GATES’ GARAGE IN NINETEEN SEVENTY-NINE AND INSTEAD KEPT YOUR GOOD JOB AT THE FACTORY THAT MANUFACTURED WALKMAN PORTABLE TAPE PLAYERS]).

His visual poems or typographic poems, where the words on the page and the image they create (as in resembling rain falling from the sky in Pleut) can be difficult far the impossibly far from fluent French reader (like myself) to fully appreciate on the page. The strategy of simply writing the translation on the opposite page, exempt from the visual structure, was probably the best solution, but not really satisfactory. You know what I’d love to see? A big art work, like painting, of those poems. Go full out VisPo.

apollinaire-rain

 

 

 

 

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