Pierre Reverdy


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(1889–1960). A poet who strove to delete all textual vestige of his person, and who in 1926 abandoned the busy avant-garde scene of Paris to live in pious exile in a village in Normandy, Reverdy maintained over the years such consistency of tone and ascetic scruple as to achieve, in the end, an entirely compelling and individual voice. The early poems, reissued as Plupart du temps (1944), rely on the seemingly arbitrary strewing of fragmented and unaccentuated phrases upon the page to set hints of poetic meaning inching into consciousness. Nothing in Reverdy is emphatic, yet his laconic gatherings of lack-lustre observations, often of solitary figures in rooms with eventless prospects, enjoy a mysterious effect of magnification which draws the anecdotal shreds into an ephemeral yet magical coherence. Reverdy's later poetry is more confidently rhythmical, though the vers libre of collections like Ferraille (1937) sounds the same note of yearning and estrangement, at times opening onto existential panic. His collected essays on painting (Note éternelle du présent, 1973) evince an almost ethereal conception of aesthetics, while the theoretical notes gathered in Le Gant de crin (1927) and Le Livre de mon bord (1948) reflect a determined effort to define the very special way poets view reality.

From The New Oxford Companion to Literature in French in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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