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Yesterday’s mail brought the beautiful little book whose cover you see, with its sketch by P. Picasso of the wounded author–1,266 pages of Guillaume Apollinaire’s complete poems. The edition in question of this under-appreciated poet comes from Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, the in-every-sense-top-shelf volumes of canonical writings published by Gallimard. They’re bafflingly expensive, but occasionally one can find them for more reasonable rates online.
The pleasure of these editions is in their completeness, their portability, and their readability. They’re printed on onionskin and sewn in signatures. They don’t fall apart. None of that would matter, of course, if the pages themselves weren’t readable, but the pages are highly readable:
That lucidity of page is of particular benefit when reading Apollinaire, a poet greatly concerned with the interrelation between the substance of a poem and its appearance.
His life, brief and eventful and tragic, should have lured a filmmaker by now, but strangely has not. That’s luck–for the poems themselves are as rich a trove of twentieth-century treasures as you’re likely to find, delicate things in tremendous abundance and variety that no biopic could do anything but maul. More than a great many modern poets, Apollinaire was alive to the musical charge of line, as his own distant voice, reading his great sad lively lyric, “Le Pont Mirabeau,” suggests, in an MP3 here.
More from Wyatt Mason:
Conversation — October 2, 2015, 8:26 am
“By committing to the great emotional extremes demanded by Greek tragedy,” says Bryan Doerries, author of The Theater of War, “the actors are in effect saying to the audience: ‘If you want to match our emotional intensity, that would be fine.’”
Amount paid last fall for a Ford Escort driven by Pope John Paul II:
92 percent of Mexicans are relaxed by a pleasant-smelling bedroom.
Swedish biologists studying coercive mating in mosquitofish discovered that females’ brains get larger as males’ genitals get longer, and male Madagascar hissing cockroaches were found to attract mates with either their enlarged testicles or their enlarged horns.
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"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."