Sentences — January 7, 2009, 1:28 pm

A Little Stroke of Luck

apollinaire_001

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:

apollinaire_002

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.

apollinaire_003

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.

(One might also read the poem translated by Richard Wilbur, or see how it was interpreted by the Pogues.)

Share
Single Page

More from Wyatt Mason:

From the February 2010 issue

The untamed

Joshua Ferris’s restless-novel syndrome

Sentences May 1, 2009, 2:41 pm

Weekend Read: The Last Post

Sentences April 29, 2009, 4:12 pm

A Certain, Wandering Light

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

July 2014

21st Century Limited

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Promises, Promises

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Good Pilgrims

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

To the Corner

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“I’m not giving a dime to FIFA. You know they’re not paying taxes on any of this?”
Photograph © The author
Article
Borderlands·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Accompanying U.S. law-enforcement officers as they raid stash houses for Central American migrants
Photograph (detail) © Kirsten Luce
Post
Ken Silverstein’s The Secret World of Oil·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It’s just amazing, the way that the oil industry has won specific and important exemptions from every significant piece of environmental legislation.”
Photograph © Gabriel Silverstein-Rivera
Article
Strange Loop·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Every great writer, it seems, has a formative horror.”
Illustration (detail) by Steven Dana
Post
Christopher Beha’s Arts and Entertainments·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On the celebrity impulse and sex tapes as literary vehicle
“If all existence is physical, then a human life has not truly been lived unless it has been publicized and in this way verified.”
Photograph © Ira Lipkke

Average number of days a West German man goes without changing his underwear:

7

High cortisol levels were measured in the saliva of male narcissists.

African Union leaders voted to give themselves and their allies immunity from prosecution for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide at the proposed African Court of Justice and Human Rights.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today