The poet who painted with his words – Geneviève Emy


Among the great poets of literary history, certain names like Homer, Shakespeare, Milton, and Whitman are instantly recognizable. However, there’s an early 20th century
great French poet whose name you may not know: Guillaume Apollinaire. He was a close friend and collaborator
of artists like Picasso, Rousseau, and Chagall. He coined the term surrealism, and he was even suspected of stealing
the Mona Lisa in 1911. During his short lifetime, he created poetry that combined
text and image in a way that seemingly predicted
an artistic revolution to come. In the late 19th
and early 20th century Paris, the low-rent districts of Montmartre
and Montparnasse were home to every
kind of starving artist. It was all they could afford. These painters, writers,
and intellectuals, united in their artistic passion
and counterculture beliefs, made up France’s bohemian subculture. And their works of art, literature,
and intellect would shake up the world. At the turn of the 20th century, within this dynamic scene, art critic, poet,
and champion of the avant-garde, Guillaume Apollinaire
was a well-known fixture. As an art critic, Apollinaire explained the cubist
and surrealist movements to the world, and rose to the defense
of many young artists in the face of what was often
a xenophobic and narrow-minded public. As a poet, Apollinaire was passionate
about all forms of art and a connoisseur of medieval literature, especially calligraphy
and illuminated initials. As a visionary, Apollinaire saw a gap
between two artistic institutions. On one side was the popular, highly
lauded traditional art forms of the time. On the other, the forms
of artistic expression made possible through surrealism, cubism, and new inventions,
like the cinema and the phonograph. Within that divide, through the creation of his most important
contribution to poetry, the calligram, Guillaume Apollinaire built a bridge. Apollinaire created the calligram
as a poem picture, a written portrait, a thoughts drawing, and he used it to express his modernism and his desire to push poetry beyond
the normal bounds of text and verse and into the 20th century. Some of his calligrams are funny, like the “Lettre-Océan.” Some of them are dedicated
to his young dead friends, like “La Colombe Poignardée
et le jet d’eau.” Some of them are the expression
of an emotional moment, as is “Il Pleut”: “It’s raining women’s voices
as if they had died even in memory, and it’s raining you as well,
Marvellous encounters of my life, o little drops. Those rearing clouds begin to neigh
a whole universe of auricular cities. Listen if it rains while regret
and disdain weep to an ancient music. Listen to the bonds fall off
which hold you above and below.” Each calligram is intended
to allow readers to unchain themselves from the regular experience of poetry, and feel and see something new. “Lettre-Océan” is first an image to be seen
before even the words are read. Text-only elements combine with words
in shapes and forms. Two circular forms,
one locked in a square, the other, morph beyond
the page in the shape of a spiral. Together they create a picture
that hints towards cubism. Then on closer reading of the text, the descriptive words within suggest the image of an aerial view
of the Eiffel Tower. They give tribute to electromagnetic waves
of the telegraph, a new form of communication at the time. Undoubtedly, the deeply layered artistic
expressions in Apollinaire’s calligrams are not just a brilliant display
of poetic prowess from a master of the form. Each calligram itself is also
a snapshot in time, encapsulating the passion, the excitement, and the anticipation of all the
bohemian artists of Paris, including Apollinaire, most of whom are well ahead of their time, and with their innovative work, eagerly grasping for the future.

100 Replies to “The poet who painted with his words – Geneviève Emy

  1. I love your videos, like I got kicked out of school for fighting and I feel like you teach me better than any of my teachers did

  2. Funny how, as a french speaker, I didn't learned much about english poets, but I knew about Apollinaire and many other french poets. I should probably check out some english stuff, there must be some great poems.

  3. I was sort of disappointed that our beloved narrator isn't there, but holy shit, French just sounds so beautifully. Hearing it gives me this aesthetic fulfillment similar to when you look at a good painting. Strange.

  4. he also wrote some pretty good incest porno. Not mentioning this is just pure ignorance. Is a huge part of his literary identity.

  5. Comment faire une vidéo sur un français :
    – Musique à l'accordéon
    – Des tours Eiffel partout
    – Un mec avec une moustache et du maquillage de mime.
    Voilà voilà.

  6. why you don't talk about the italian Marinetti
    he was introducing Futurism 5 years before Apollinarie, with his "Manifesto del Futurismo"("Manifest of Futurism")
    One of the most important features of the Futuristic poetry was the visual part of the poem
    It was not as artistic as the poetry of Apollinarie but it was the first step to a new direction for all the arts
    Search about the Futurism if you don't believe me!

  7. that's so fonny to be french to listen to you when you speak in french like "the Deja vu" or for the names of the poems 🙂

  8. Why do you feel it necessary to crudely stereotype the French by playing that music? Would you play dueling banjos on every single video about a white American? No? Well you should!

  9. Actually , this calligrams is not an idea of Guillaume Apollinaire – similar image-based poetry were created by several poets all around the world , especially in Medieval Ages . For example : pretty much all arabic calligraphers , russian monk Symeon of Polotsk , austrian Catharina Regina von Greiffenberg , french writer François Rabelais . And all of them were before Guillaume Apollinaire .

  10. Apollinaire was the one who made the calligramme popular in the circle of artists in Paris, but Vicente Huidobro, a poet from his circle, was already making calligrammes in 1913. And also, he didn't created them, but made them more complex, because the calligrammes were used in ancient Greece.

  11. As a french I wanted to say the following:
    -I know some people like the french accent, but to us it sounds like nails on a chalkboard.
    -accordion? really?
    -mimes and eiffel towers everywhere? Well then do not complain when the only thing people associate with America is the statue of liberty and fat people…

    And on a more positive note: your animation is amazing!

  12. Yay!!! Stereotypes about french people!!!! now make one about Americans: fat dude on a motorized shopping cart with a burger in one hand and a gun in the other screaming: Yee ha!!! #1!!!! USA!! USA!! (don't forget the cowboy hat) while telling the story of Roger Easton the the dude who invented the GPS with some good old country in the background..

  13. Sadly I think Apollinaire is unheard of because he lived a short tragic life, marred by being seriously injured in WWI and living with PTSD after it. He could have been more well-known if he was able to keep working on his craft but he died of Spanish flu less than two years after being seriously injured. The early 20th century visual poets, there were a lot of them during this time, were creating poetry like this that flows like the direction of electricity. I think Tristan Tzara was the most famous of them and took the cake for this movement.

  14. it somone me
    tthis advance knowledge trap a noice in poetry

    the acient civilization tears in all liquid capsolate decending its information spread in all liquid
    that can morp to any shapes solid liquid gas that 3 intity . traviling like ghost in time of information

    that put there technology on tears and it in all liquid
    ofearth

    that rain from the old accient civilization that lived in memories of liquid its in all of us

    its information is in trapped

    in ll liquid whos the wisest to descover it

    whos the wises who can increased this civilizations wisdom
    and incript and desiffer its techlogy

    our powers as individuals are so limited

    were havent acchieve hive mind a hive mentality and maturity yet as a species were on that step to desiffer even more hidden knowledge

  15. It´s a good thing that TED-Ed spans a wide range of topics and introduces us to Apollinaire (I myself animate stuff of literature). But what the video doesn´t say (or have I overheard it?): The young poet wrote pornographic stuff too and was entangled in the abduction of artwork (not only the Mona Lisa) from the Louvre. – And he died with only 32 years already.

  16. Oh, this was a beautiful video! The animation is gorgeous and the narrator has such a nice french ring in his british accent if you know what I mean.
    I wish I'd known about this Apollinaire fellow before

  17. You forgot to mention that he was also arrested by the French police as a suspect in the 1911 Mona Lisa theft but was then released.

  18. This is crazy. This guy was writing poetry that was well ahead of his time while I laid in bed all day watching Ted Ed.

  19. I'm surprised that Apollinaire is described as less-known. I was under the impression that he was very well-known.
    You should do a narration on why Andre Breton seems like such a disdainful fellow.

  20. Stop it with the fake French accent – you're only embarrassing yourself and angering the francophones

  21. He reminds me of the millennium earl when he falls in the sky, one hand holding the umbrella for his head xD

  22. I wonder how talented these artists were! They somehow managed to survive and produced great pieces of art.

  23. He was a 'poilu' during WW1 and was wounded by a shrapnel in the head. He died of spanish flu in 1918.

  24. Guillaume Apollinaire : comment pendant la Première guerre mondiale l'artilleur-poète détourne l'arsenal militaire (le canon de 75) pour en faire une flèche amoureuse. Ou: comment déjouer la misogynie à l’œuvre dans le futurisme italien.

    Guillaume Apollinaire: how during the First World War the gunner-poet deflects the military arsenal (the gun of 75) to use it as a loving arrow. Or: how to counter the misogyny at work in Italian futurism.

    https://www.revue-relief.org/articles/abstract/10.18352

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