Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Poetry Corner

Above all, it is a matter of loving art, not understanding it”.
Fernand Léger

When not raving about Paris, I’m raving about the Côte d’Azur. The French Riviera is a beautiful area full of art, history, markets, parks the Mediterranean and warm sun.  I can't think of a better place to relax and soak up some culture at the same time.

Several years ago, while exploring the area around Nice, we came upon Biot, a charming town known for its artisans especially in glass-blowing and pottery. It’s a community that celebrates the arts and it’s here that you’ll find the Fernand Léger Museum.

The Painter
Fernand Léger (1881-1955) is, in my opinion, in a class by himself.  His early work was an offshoot of cubism, and he ended up doing almost sculptural paintings - abstract yet not.

I wasn’t all that familiar with the work of Léger when we first visited Biot, but I saw a piece which influenced the way I look at art. Léger coupled his painting with the poem “Liberté” by Paul Eluard and I immediately fell in love with the piece.  It's not that we don't see words and images combined every day, but this was special.  This was never meant to be advertising.  This was art meeting art to form art.

The Poet
Paul Eluard (1895-1952) was one of the founders of the Surrealist movement which I'm not too keen on but there is nothing surreal about this poem, except for the length.  (A little literary gossip - Eluard was married to Gala who divorced him to became Salvador Dali's wife).

The Poem
The long poem Liberté, j'écris ton nom was originally titled simply Liberté. It was the first poem in the collection Poésie et vérité (1942). Éluard wrote it in the summer of 1941 and called it a poem for a special occasion ('poème de circonstance') because it gave expression to the contemporary feeling of hope in the battle for freedom. The poem became exceptionally popular. The word 'Liberté' and the recurring line of verse 'j'écris ton nom' generated so much excitement and enthusiasm that the R.A.F. – the British Royal Air Force – distributed thousands of copies across all of France.

From the National Library of the Netherlands

Below is the English translation of the poem for anyone interested.  The original French poem (which is of course preferred) can be found at alalettre.com 

Liberté, j’ecris ton nom

On my notebooks from school
On my desk and the trees
On the sand on the snow
I write your name

On every page read
On all the white sheets
Stone blood paper or ash
I write your name

On the golden images
On the soldier’s weapons
On the crowns of kings
I write your name

On the jungle the desert
The nests and the bushes
On the echo of my childhood
I write your name

On the wonder of nights
On the white bread of days
On the seasons engaged
I write your name

On all my blue rags
On the pond mildewed sun
On the lake living moon
I write your name

On the fields the horizon
The wings of the birds
On the windmill of shadows
I write your name

On the foam of the clouds
On the sweat of the storm
On dark insipid rain
I write your name

On the glittering forms
On the bells of colour
On physical truth
I write your name

On the wakened paths
On the opened ways
On the scattered places
I write your name

On the lamp that gives light
On the lamp that is drowned
On my house reunited
I write your name

On the bisected fruit
Of my mirror and room
On my bed’s empty shell
I write your name

On my dog greedy and tender
On his listening ears
On his awkward paws
I write your name

On the sill of my door
On familiar objects
On the fire’s sacred stream
I write your name

On all flesh that’s in tune
On the brows of my friends
On each hand that extends
I write your name

On the glass of surprises
On lips that attend
Well above the silence
I write your name

On my ravaged refuges
On my fallen lighthouses
On the walls of my boredom
I write your name

On passionless absence
On naked solitude
On the marches of death
I write your name

On health that’s regained
On danger that’s past
On hope without memories
I write your name

By the power of the word
I regain my life
I was born to know you
And to name you

FREEDOM

Paul Eluard, 1941

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