By Lionel Richard
Literary magazine n° 348
The new esthetics, which Apollinaire in "the preliminary Alcohol" poem proposes , aims at gathering and with exalter the heteroclite one. When poetry accepts chaos and the chance.
" Love you do not know what it is only the absence
And you do not know that one smells oneself some to die "
Apollinaire,Poems With Lou
" Sad and mélodieux is delirious
I wander through my beautiful Paris
Without having the heart to die there. "
Apollinaire,the Song of badly-liked
" the Song of badly-liked commemorates my first love at twenty years, English met in Germany, that lasted one year, we had to turn over each one on our premises, then we were not written any more... I suffered much from it, witness this poem where I believed myself badly liked while it was me which liked badly... '
Apollinaire, Letter With Madeleine Pagès, 1915.
Quand the volume of " Alcohols " appeared, in 1913, it was compared with the back-store of a receiver. One could there discover of all, out-of-date and the incomprehensible one. It was not so badly seen ; but if " the old one ", which connected certain poems with those of Gourmont, Verlaine, Nerval, of Villon, with the weaving songs, were noticed instantaneously, the " new one " appeared to raise of provocative incongruity. In short, the " new one " appeared to be limited to a sterile ease. It was necessary that time passed so that more surprising became most productive ; the least justifiable was going to be held by the poets for most fertile. Thus it goes from there, in " Alcohols " with the preliminary poem " Zone ", and its guarantor, at the end of work, " Vendémiaire ".
" Zone " appeared, in December 1912, in " the evenings of Paris " ; on Apollinaire tests will substitute for the title " Cry " that of " Zone ". "the Alcohol" organization not being chronological, Apollinaire retained it to open the collection symbolically, when " Vendémiaire ", probably written about 1909, and published in November 1912, was located at the end of the work. Poem assessment and poem confession " Zone " places " Alcohols " under the sign of what will be named a little later in " Calligrammes ", the tradition and the adventure. The change of title which takes place, of pre-original to the collection, " Cry " (the table of Edward Munch is 1893) at " Zone ", carries to modify the reading of the poem : it is not any more to regard a cry of personal despair, but as the course of a zone of pains ; the individual is disseminated and reflects himself in what it sees around him, which it looks with the sky. The poem is built on the rather traditional form of a wander, downtown, of an end of day to one morning. Space described, between the recollection of a " industrial street " crossing the morning, and approaches it at the following day of the residence of Auteuil, while " the slags make tinkle their cans in the streets " seems subjected to the only law of the disparate one. The memories in disorder invade the spirit ; those which milked with Mediterranean childhood, at the cities crossed at the time of the great voyage towards the east of 1902 (Prague, Coblentz), with shames (" as a criminal one puts to you in a state of arrest " what refers to the flight of the Mona Lisa into 1911), to the disasters of the desire and with the compassion (" I now humiliate with a poor girl with the horrible laughter my mouth ") are juxtaposed. No law " of association of the ideas " could legitimate their appearance ; their obliteration, or their multiplication is free. With these memories, that the indication of the places makes it possible to place in prospect in time, mix with the notations with the dubious statute. An assessment, an effort of totalization (" you made the painful one and merry voyages ") can indicate a return to the present, that of the evening and night ambulation, with this " today you steps in Paris " which constitutes the wire of the poem. The emigrants at theSaint-Lazare station are images of oneself, which became wandering fault of not having more pole (" I lived like insane and I wasted my time ") ; the prostitutes are beings pareillement detached, déconstruits. The title of " Zone " would indicate mental space thus, when it is without direction, when it is not any more that one " ground gaste ", " has waste Land ", where all that occupies the field of the conscience suddenly takes the same value.
The occasion of this sentimental and spiritual assessment is known ; it follows the rupture with Marie Laurencin. And as Apollinaire is with the day before of his thirty-three years, its destiny does not appear to him without relationship with that of Christ. Nor what it saw, with what Dante and Virgile crossed. It is well in hell, but it does not have a guide. With the way of the poems epic, " Zone " proceeds on several plans : that of the night and adventurous ambulation, of confrontation with the other which one was (and that could be named a " catabase "), that, finally, the supernatural one, sky where the guardian angels côtoient the airplanes. The characteristic of, it is to make of a human destiny the consequence of a divine will. The title of " Zone " could thus indicate a space, always undecided, but this either geographical but spiritual time : " Zone " this place and vacuum of the sky which one awaits some sign vainly, with least humming.
This poem of heroic confession thus has all the characters of old : its staged construction, its assonancés distiches, its regular alexandrines (" at the end you are tired/of this old world ") or prolonged (" shepherdess ô Eiffel Tower/the herd of the bridges bleats/this morning "), its traditional inversions and its periphrases (" the flying machine "), its unexpected metaphors (" a bell barks "), finally the sure effects of the religious litany (" it is the torch with the russet-red hair... "), all causes to make identifiable of the familiar rates/rhythms, alleviating known musics. But the old poetic one cannot access text completely ; it remains in margin of the tradition ; it is désaccordé of it with what it makes think ; in short, it is located in a new " Zone", disconcerting already, but still undecided. Indeed the characteristic of the poem was to present itself, in its forced forms, like a language necessary ; however all, in " Zone ", the set of themes, the rhythmic one, concerns the random one. Moral despair leads Apollinaire to invent, as of " Zone ", a new esthetics, which it will radicalize in other works (in the " poem-conversation ", for example), and of which it will make the theory, in 1917, in its " Conference on the new spirit " : " one can be poet in all the fields : it is enough that one is adventurous and that one goes to the discovery. "It is what" Zone shows " ; and that explains why was placed at the opening of the book this poem of distress, when were reserved, to close it, the " songs of universal drunkenness ". " the poet is that which discovers new joys, were they painful to support ".
The new esthetics, which Apollinaire proposes, is related to an idea of gathering and exaltation of the heteroclite one. If the idea of beautiful ideal and harmony referred to Apollon implicitly, it is in Dionysos that will refer Apollinaire, Dionysos to which is comparable Christ, when the wine is blood, and the mystical press. Poetry selective any more, neither in its vocabulary, neither in its topics, nor is scheduled. It accepts chaos and the chance. It is not only any more in the books ; it bursts with the glance : " You read the leaflets the catalogues the posters which sing high/here is poetry this morning... " the pain-killer, the apparently unimportant one, the commonplace one even are taken again in load : " Te here in Marseilles in the medium of water melons/Te here in Coblentz with the hotel of the Giant ", in ordinary alexandrines consolidated by discrete assonances between the hémistiche and the rhyme. But what to say this industrial street " located in Paris between the street/Aumont-Thiéville/and the avenue of the Terns " where an E dumb remains floating (its deletion in the word " street " gave a great concern to Mallarmé, when it wrote in quatrains the addresses of its letters), where only a rhythmic symmetry would impose on a diction, undoubtedly hateful, " to save " the notation ? The poetic modern one is opposed to the old speech in worms : with the logical continuum (only division in stanzas was allowed) are opposite the asyndeton, the rupture, the failure, with what consolidates, which breaks, with what progresses in time, which exists simultanéement. The poem is composed of small islands ; the reader, of the one with the other, short the risk of a shipwreck. The text is invested by the white which penetrates margins in the sentence, of monostic with leaves the twenty-nine one towards by the distich, the tercet, the quatrain.
The notations are not implied rationally ; each one of them becomes the expression, discontinuous, of a latent imaginary state to which the reader must lend a problematic coherence. To say that poetry is in " the leaflets the catalogues the posters " is not only to affirm its visual character (what will open the way with the " Calligrammes ", and, beyond, with the joining of " titles and fragments of titles cut out in the newspapers " to what André Breton proceeds as of first " Proclamation of surrealism ") ; it is to oppose the heteroclite one to homogeneous, dispersion with the unit with the idea that poetry is the act by which a listener or a spectator adapts scattered images to make of them signs of his own destiny. Poem MIME plus a stable composition, according to reasonable rules ; it is an apparent chaos, a starry sky, whose reader must make a space of composition, always in disintegration, always to restructure.
The world of the spirit, waste ground, heteroclite point discharge, true zone, is explored during the night, until the morning, " the sun is it there is a distinct neck ". This first version becomes, in theoriginal one of 1912, " sun raising sliced neck ", to finally find its form final, gnomic, cacophonous and enigmatic : " sun cuckoo-roller ". The raising sun represents a traditional image of the hope ; if the Phoenix dies one evening, known as the stanza added in 1909 to " the Song of badly-liked ", " the morning sees its rebirth ". The sun is not any more the manager of the cosmic movement ; it makes think of a decapitated god. The man is headless, the world is eccentric. The swirl, the flashover only reduce the feeling of loneliness and scatter :
" And you drink this extreme alcohol like your life
Your life which you drink like a brandy. "
A dance dionysienne will carry the cities and the world in the month of the grape harvest, in " Vendémiaire ", after the revolution will have been accomplished. That which delivers kings, incunables, agreed poetry.
Inliterary magazine n° 348 - November 1996 - File " Apollinaire "