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This report is taken from PN Review 114, Volume 23 Number 4, March - April 1997.

Pierre Reverdy and 'absolute reality' John Pilling

The life and writings of Pierre Reverdy seem perfectly adapted to the famous definition of poetry as 'the flower absent from all bouquets', out of which Mallarmé evolved, or failed to evolve, his own more crystalline work. Of Reverdy's life we can know very little in the intimate way that makes other poets our contemporaries, even with centuries intervening. Yet what previously looked, as Reverdy himself desired, a blank, or at best a bare structure with few points of purchase, is in the process of emerging, more than a hundred years on from his birth. The oeuvre of Reverdy, long considered by fellow poets of immense value (however difficult of access it might appear), is also assuming the lineaments of substance in the time-honoured fashion of a Complete Works for the widest possible audience, guaranteeing (in France at least) the kind of status which, in his lifetime, the poet was content to disavow. For many, however, even under increasingly optimum conditions, Reverdy will remain a figure prized precisely because he does not lend himself to the business of appropriation and the fabrication of commodities. He appeals to those who believe, with the late René Char, that 'the roads which do not promise the country of their destination are the best-loved roads' In the circumstances one may be forgiven for adapting the Mallarméan dictum and relishing the fact that Reverdy is 'absent from all bouquets', as he for the most part hoped to remain.

Although Reverdy was an ...


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