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This article is taken from PN Review 91, Volume 19 Number 5, May - June 1993.

The Shaping of Modern French Poetry: New Harmonies for Old Roger Little

THE MULTIPLICITY, in French poetry of the last 150 years, of cases where interest is shown in the visual arts is extraordinary. That interest has by no means diminished in the poetry of the last fifty years, which have seen a proliferation of references to paintings and other art works past and present and of collaborative ventures between poets and artists. In exceptional instances, poet and artist are the same person, and the aesthetic evolved through an intimate engagement with both arts is particularly instructive.

Rapid technological changes have excited creative interest but made developments harder to follow. Photography vies with lithography as a creative accompaniment to words, the latter now being considered more noble than it was when etching was paramount. Several magazines since Minotaure have striven to reflect an interactive ethos: one thinks of Éphémére with the group around Bonnefoy, Dupin, Du Bouchet and Louis-René des forêts, of the very different, glossy FMR, of Derrière Ie miroir and Argile around the art impressario Aime Maeght, and a host of others. While Pierre Lecuire has continued to craft livres d'artiste in the Blake tradition of one-man books, Roger Laufer has experimented on film with animation techniques applied to words and letters. Claes Oldenberg and Ian Hamilton Finlay are not the only artists to incorporate language into sculpture in their different ways, how far removed from traditional inscriptions on monuments. If Christian Dotremont has produced exceptional 'logogrammes' in which the very borders between word and image become ...


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