Saturday, December 12, 2015

Wallace Fowlie's 'Poem and Symbol: A Brief History of French Symbolism'

Wallace Fowlie, Poem & Symbol: A Brief History of French Symbolism (University Park and London: The Pennsylvania State University, 1990).

I love international interplay, and among those French poets broadly termed symbolists, we have Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) inspiring Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) and Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898), who in turn have inspired T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Patti Smith, Dum Dum Girls and onward.

But let's get back to Baudelaire via Fowlie: "The word associated with Baudelaire in the new aesthetic credo was bizarre. In announcing in his salon of 1855 that 'le beau est toujours bizarre' ('beauty is always strange'), he indicated that the artist's attraction to the strange is an element of . . . personality and separates [the artist] from [the majority of people], who submit easily to the conventional and the traditional, who prefer not to be startled by originality . . ." (p. 5). Exactly.
"[I]mpulses that often manifest themselves in the subconscious -- fantasies, hallucinations, and sentiments of fear -- and which in most . . . are not allowed to develop represent the sources of experiences in [humanity's] moral and physicial life. The artist, for Baudelaire, feels a desire to know and explore such fantasies that border on dreams and nightmares." (p. 5). Absolutely.
In a section on René Char (1907-1988), Fowlie continues: "The poetic act is a finding of a form for things that otherwise would never emerge from their abyss or their silence or their possibility . . . The risk of poetry is precisely this responsibility of the poet in the action of drawing poetry from the poet's sleep and from his [or her] subconscious." (p. 146).
"There is a price to pay for feeling deeply and for writing as a poet. That price is the daily assumption of peril." (p. 147). Indeed. 

Today's Rune: Growth. 


Charles Gramlich said...

Bizarre: the story of my inner life!

the walking man said...

The life of a poet, was different when Baudelaire lived, though i get his penchant to shock people from their static life with words and images not normally expressed. Poets in this age write but they live it would seem to perform, to compete, to be a slam master. Younger ones anyway. i do not disparage their work or their skill at performance but without poetry the river in my head would have no rhythm as it passes over the stones in my mind. Then I'd be forever chucking rocks from the wadi, a word here a word there but rare the thought about the landing of them.