Marvelous Encounters: Surrealist Responses to Film, Art, Poetry, and Architecture

Marvelous Encounters: Surrealist Responses to Film, Art, Poetry, and Architecture

Marvelous Encounters: Surrealist Responses to Film, Art, Poetry, and Architecture

Marvelous Encounters: Surrealist Responses to Film, Art, Poetry, and Architecture

Synopsis

The concept of poesie critique - poetry that possesses both a poetic and a critical function - has an extensive history in modern literature. Written in response to another work of art, be it a painting, a film, a poem, or a piece of music, the critical poem comments on the latter in various ways but refuses to abandon its poetic mission. Marvelous Encounters examines surrealist poets writing in French, Spanish, and Catalan who experimented with this intriguing genre. The first three chapters are concerned with the French surrealists, who began to cultivate critical poetry toward the end of World War I. Chapter 2 considers how Louis Aragon and Philippe Soupault appropriated the critical poem, as they reviewed books of poetry and films starring Charlie Chaplin. Chapter 3, which examines how Benjamin Peret and Paul Eluard conceived of critical poetry, analyzes their response to poems by Tristan Tzara and paintings by Giorgio de Chirico and Joan Miro. Chapter 4 is devoted entirely to Andre Breton.

Excerpt

The concept of Poésie Critique— poetry that possesses both a poetic and a critical function—has an extensive history in modern literature, especially in France where it has flourished since the turn of the century. Written in response to another work of art, be it a painting, a film, a poem, or a piece of music, the critical poem comments on the latter in various ways but refuses to abandon its poetic mission. Curiously, despite the crucial role the genre has played in the development of modern poetry, it has attracted relatively little attention from scholars. As Robert W. Greene notes in a recent study of Pierre Jean Jouve, critical poetry is “still [a] largely neglected phenomenon.” the situation is complicated, moreover, by the emergence of a rival tradition exemplifying a radically different principle. ‘’Recently,” Thorpe Running remarks in an excellent study of eight Latin American poets entitled The Critical Poem, “a poetry has emerged that expresses utter despair at not being able to say anything at all.” Exhibiting a skeptical attitude toward language, he explains in the introduction, critical poetry questions its own construction and its ability to convey meaning. As such, it is concerned not with other works of art but with its own failings. To be sure, this tradition is well documented in Latin America and elsewhere, for example in North American L = a = N = G = U = a = G = E poetry. However, the appropriation of the term “critical poetry”—by the Mexican poet Octavio Paz in 1971—stems from a serious misunderstanding.

Since Paz’s error sheds a certain amount of light on the origin of critical poetry, which the passage of time has increasingly obscured, it is worth examining. the concept of critical poetry appears to have been formulated originally by Charles Baudelaire who, reviewing the paintings at the Salon of 1846, argued that criticism should be amusing, committed, passionate, and poetic. “Le meilleur compte rendu d’un tableau,” he declared, “pourra être un sonnet ou une . . .

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