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  • Among the great poets of literary history,

  • certain names like Homer,

  • Shakespeare,

  • Milton,

  • and Whitman are instantly recognizable.

  • However, there's an early 20th century great French poet

  • whose name you may not know:

  • Guillaume Apollinaire.

  • He was a close friend and collaborator of artists

  • like Picasso, Rousseau,

  • and Chagall.

  • He coined the term surrealism,

  • and he was even suspected of stealing the Mona Lisa in 1911.

  • During his short lifetime,

  • he created poetry that combined text and image

  • in a way that seemingly predicted an artistic revolution to come.

  • In the late 19th and early 20th century Paris,

  • the low-rent districts of Montmartre and Montparnasse

  • were home to every kind of starving artist.

  • It was all they could afford.

  • These painters, writers, and intellectuals, united

  • in their artistic passion and counterculture beliefs,

  • made up France's bohemian subculture.

  • And their works of art, literature, and intellect would shake up the world.

  • At the turn of the 20th century,

  • within this dynamic scene, art critic, poet, and champion of the avant-garde,

  • Guillaume Apollinaire was a well-known fixture.

  • As an art critic, Apollinaire explained

  • the cubist and surrealist movements to the world,

  • and rose to the defense of many young artists

  • in the face of what was often a xenophobic and narrow-minded public.

  • As a poet, Apollinaire was passionate about all forms of art

  • and a connoisseur of medieval literature,

  • especially calligraphy and illuminated initials.

  • As a visionary, Apollinaire saw a gap between two artistic institutions.

  • On one side was the popular, highly lauded traditional art forms of the time.

  • On the other, the forms of artistic expression made possible

  • through surrealism, cubism,

  • and new inventions, like the cinema and the phonograph.

  • Within that divide,

  • through the creation of his most important contribution to poetry,

  • the calligram,

  • Guillaume Apollinaire built a bridge.

  • Apollinaire created the calligram as a poem picture,

  • a written portrait,

  • a thoughts drawing,

  • and he used it to express his modernism

  • and his desire to push poetry beyond the normal bounds of text and verse

  • and into the 20th century.

  • Some of his calligrams are funny,

  • like the "Lettre-Océan."

  • Some of them are dedicated to his young dead friends,

  • like "La Colombe Poignardée et le jet d'eau."

  • Some of them are the expression of an emotional moment,

  • as is "Il Pleut":

  • "It's raining women's voices as if they had died even in memory,

  • and it's raining you as well, Marvellous encounters of my life,

  • o little drops.

  • Those rearing clouds begin to neigh a whole universe of auricular cities.

  • Listen if it rains while regret and disdain weep to an ancient music.

  • Listen to the bonds fall off which hold you above and below."

  • Each calligram is intended to allow readers to unchain themselves

  • from the regular experience of poetry,

  • and feel and see something new.

  • "Lettre-Océan" is first an image to be seen before even the words are read.

  • Text-only elements combine with words in shapes and forms.

  • Two circular forms, one locked in a square,

  • the other, morph beyond the page in the shape of a spiral.

  • Together they create a picture that hints towards cubism.

  • Then on closer reading of the text,

  • the descriptive words within suggest

  • the image of an aerial view of the Eiffel Tower.

  • They give tribute to electromagnetic waves of the telegraph,

  • a new form of communication at the time.

  • Undoubtedly, the deeply layered artistic expressions in Apollinaire's calligrams

  • are not just a brilliant display of poetic prowess from a master of the form.

  • Each calligram itself is also a snapshot in time,

  • encapsulating the passion, the excitement,

  • and the anticipation of all the bohemian artists of Paris,

  • including Apollinaire, most of whom are well ahead of their time,

  • and with their innovative work,

  • eagerly grasping for the future.

Among the great poets of literary history,

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B1 TED-Ed artistic poet art century bohemian

【TED-Ed】The poet who painted with his words - Geneviève Emy

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    YSI posted on 2016/03/30
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