FRENCH CULTURE: POETRY Read by Poets and More

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private37 009 img547The armchair philosopher keeps reading, but every once in a while you need to listen. Everest Records put out some amazing vinyl like the record above (Frl 1524) with French poetry read by other poets. The white and silver with black printing is interesting and the three poets represented here are all of the same era.

Verlaine ( 1844-1896), Rimbaud (1854-1891) Mallarme (1842-1898) all represent highlights in French prose and poetry. Poetry like a musical score is only half realized when we find it on the printed page. There is the need for the voice, the human instrument, to give back the full warmth that deeply personal inspiration breathed into it. “This is especially true of the works of Verlaine, Rimbaud and Mallarme whose studied art arranges in what seem like inevitably correct patterns the graceful ebb and flow of sound.” Quote from the back of the record.

The poems on this record are read by: James Lewis who reads Verlaine; Linette Fisher who reads Verlaine and Mallarme; and Stephane Reitman, Claude Monteux who both read Mallarme. The record is edited by Georges Guy who taught French literature at Bernard and Hunter.

I looked for a poem I especially like and there is simply too much here. Thinking about this choice for a while, I came up with this Mallarme poem titled Brise Marine which translates as Sea Breeze .

The original French text was well translated by Peter and Mary Ann Caws
and found in Selected Poetry and Prose ©1982 by Mary Ann Caws for the entire text including the French visit this site (NYBG.org)

Sea Breeze

How sad the flesh! and there’s no more to read.
Escape, far off! I feel that somewhere birds
Are drunk to be amid strange spray and skies!
Nothing, not those old gardens eyes reflect
Can now restrain this heart steeped in the sea
Oh nights! nor the lone brightness of my lamp
On the blank paper which its whiteness shields
Nor the young wife, baby at her breast.
I shall depart! Steamer with swaying masts,
Raise anchor for exotic wilderness!

Tedium, desolated by cruel hope,
Has faith still in great fluttering farewells!
And, it may be, the masts, inviting storms
Are of the sort that wind inclines to wrecks
Lost, with no mast, no mast or verdant isle …
But listen, oh my heart, the sailors sing!

A good alternative with a better translation which makes more sense to the listener perhaps is the English text read at the audio site of the National Museums  Liverpool  UK (Walker Gallery).

Interesting to me is how books, and illustrators come together with poetry. At the Walker Gallery audio site we found this information:

In 1930 Matisse received his first commission for a luxury art book. The Swiss publisher Albert Skira invited him to illustrate poems by the French Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898). Mallarmé’s work was considered challenging, like that of Matisse. It was often attacked for being inaccessible because he preferred to evoke or allude to objects, rather than name them. Matisse selected the poems, preferring those inspired by women and nature. He made numerous drawings, experimenting with endless combinations of scale, text, borders and image. Eventually, he settled on double-page spreads with text in dense ‘Garamond italic’ font.”

Click on the audio to listen and then go the marvelous rendition below, sung by the French singer Jacques Bertin.

 

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