Pierre Reverdy

1889–1960
Reverdy began his career as a poet when he moved to Paris in 1910. His supporting father died a year later, so the aspiring poet was forced to eke out a living through his writing. He published his first small volume of poetry in 1915 and continued to write steadily thereafter. Gradually Reverdy became known in literary circles, frequenting the avant-garde group consisting of such wellknown artists and writers as Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, and Georges Braque. With these and other artists, Reverdy helped develop cubism and surrealism. In 1917 he founded the monthly literary review, Nord-Sud, which drew together the first cubists and surrealists. The review featured many innovative authors, including Apollinaire, Jacob, Louis Aragon, Andre Breton, and Philippe Soupault.

When the collection of his early poems, Les Epaves du ciel, appeared in 1924, Reverdy achieved greater recognition as a poet. This early work showed the definite influence of cubism and surrealism. The surrealists praised Reverdy as the greatest living poet. His poems were short and fragmentary with a sharp visual appearance which was compatible with the cubist feel for plastic values. The loneliness and spiritual apprehension which ran through his poetry attracted the surrealists. Despite this influence by both modes of thought, Reverdy remained independent: he searched for something other than the goals of cubism or surrealism. He endeavored to find "the sublime simplicity of true reality." His writing became more mystical and attempted to delve beneath outward appearances to discover the concealed truth. In his quest, Reverdy became a Catholic and retired to a life of ascetic seclusion near the Benedictine monastery at Solesmes in 1926. He stayed there for the remainder of his life, devoting his time to his poetry and his religion. Reverdy's later poetry became more condensed, containing no excess verbiage and often omitting connecting thoughts. Soupault claimed that Reverdy "with Paul Eluard, . . . is the purest of the writers of his time."

Career

Poet and writer.

Bibliography

  • Poems en prose, [France], 1915.
  • La Lucarne ovale (poetry; title means "The Attic Window"), [France], 1916.
  • Quelques Poemes, [France], 1916.
  • Le Voleur de Talan(novel), [France], 1917, reprinted, Flammarion, 1967.
  • Les Jockeys camoufles, La Belle, 1918.
  • Les Ardoises du toit, [France], 1918.
  • La Guitare endormie (poetry; title means "The Sleeping Guitar"), [France], 1919.
  • Self-defence, [France], 1919.
  • Coeur de chene, [France], 1921.
  • Cravates de chanvre, [France], 1922.
  • Les Epaves du ciel (title means "The Flotsam of Heaven"), Editions de la Nouvelle Revue Francaise, 1924.
  • Ecumes de la mer, [France], 1925.
  • Grand Nature, [France], 1925.
  • La Peau de l'homme(novel), Nouvelle Revue Francaise, 1926, reprinted, Flammarion, 1968.
  • Le Gant de crin (criticism; title means "The Hair Glove"), Plon, 1927, reprinted, Flammarion, 1972.
  • Flaques de verre (poetry; title means "Pools of Glass"), Gallimard, 1929, reprinted, Flammarion, 1972.
  • Sources du vent (title means "Sources of the Wind"), [France], 1929, reprinted, Gallimard, 1971.
  • Risques et perils, contes, 1915-1928(prose), Gallimard, 1930, reprinted, Flammarion, 1972.
  • Pierres blanches (poetry; title means "White Stones"), [France], 1930.
  • Feraille (poetry; title means "Scrap Iron"), [France], 1937.
  • Plupart du temps, poemes, 1915-1922, Gallimard, 1945.
  • Le Livre de mon bord, notes, 1930-1936(prose), Mercure de France, 1948.
  • Chants des morts (poetry; title means "Song of the Dead"), [France], 1948.
  • Main d'oeuvre, poemes, 1913-1949, Mercure de France, 1949.
  • En vrac(prose), Editions du Rocher, 1956.
  • (With Georges Duthuit) The Last Works of Henri Matisse, 1950-1954, Harcourt, 1958.
  • Plupart du temps: Poemes en prose, Flammarion, 1967.
  • Reverdy, translated by Anne Hyde Greet, Unicorn Press, 1968.
  • Selected Poems, translated by Kenneth Rexroth, New Directions, 1969.
  • Lettres a Jean Rousselot(correspondence), Rougerie, 1973.
  • Note eternelle du present: Ecrits sur l'art, 1923-1960, Flammarion, 1973.
  • Cette Emotion appelee poesie: Ecrits sur la poesie, Flammarion, 1974.
  • Nord-sud: Self-defence et autres ecrits sur l'art et la poesie, 1917-1926, Flammarion, 1975.
  • Painted Stars, translated by Susan Plunket, The News & the Weather, 1976.
  • La Liberte des mers: Sable mouvant et autres poemes, Flammarion, 1978.
  • Roof Slates and Other Poems of Pierre Reverdy, translated, with prefaces by Mary Ann Caws and Patricia Terry, Northeastern University Press, 1981.
  • Die meiste Zeit: Prosagedichte 1915, translated and edited by Dieter Schoeneborn, Universitaet-Gesamthochschule Siegen, 1990.
  • Selected Poems, edited by Timothy Bent, Wake Forest University Press, 1991.
Founder and chief editor of Nord-Sud (literary review), 1917-18.

Further Reading

PERIODICALS
  • Georges Lemaitre, From Cubism to Surrealism, Cambridge University Press, 1941; Henri Peyre, editor, Essays in Honor of Albert Feuillerat, Yale University Press, 1943; Yale French Studies, spring-summer, 1958; Kenyon Review, spring, 1959;Modern Language Review, April, 1963; Alexander Aspel,Contemporary French Poetry, University of Michigan Press, 1965; Mortimer Guiney, La Poesie de Pierre Reverdy, Librairie de L'Universite (Geneva), 1966; Robert W. Greene, The Poetic Theory of Pierre Reverdy, University of California Press, 1967; Anna Balakian, Surrealism: The Road to the Absolute, Dutton, 1970.
OBITUARIES:PERIODICALS
  • Books Abroad, summer, 1961.

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Poet Categorization

POET’S REGION France

LIFE SPAN 1889–1960

Biography

Reverdy began his career as a poet when he moved to Paris in 1910. His supporting father died a year later, so the aspiring poet was forced to eke out a living through his writing. He published his first small volume of poetry in 1915 and continued to write steadily thereafter. Gradually Reverdy became known in literary circles, frequenting the avant-garde group consisting of such wellknown artists and writers as Guillaume . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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