Sunday, September 27, 2009

Poem of the Week: "The Departure" by Guillaume Apollinaire

This edition of Poem of the Week was inspired by three things: 1) the autumn leaves beginning to fall, 2) the recent PBS DVD catalog, in which I was disappointed by the lack of World War I documentaries, and 3) my desire for a short post after the long Fitzgerald Week updates. This poem combines all three of these things!

Guillaume Apollinaire is one of my favorite World War I writers, which is really saying something because World War I is both my favorite war (yes, you can have such a thing) and one of my favorite literary topics. His absurd, often surreal, poetry tries to deal with the horrors of war in a new and interesting way. His famous book, Calligrammes: Poems of War and Peace 1913-1916, features poems that move into strange, fascinating places. Some of the poems take form in shapes; others throw random lines one after another to create a stirring, chilling effect. One of my favorite poems in the collection is also one of it's shortest. I think "The Departure" is both chilling in its depiction of the way war leaves everything broken - people, places, language - and lovely in its language, particularly the second stanza. Also, it's an easy poem to memorize and whip out to impress others.

"The Departure," by Guillaume Apollinaire
Translated by Anne Hyde Greet

And their faces grew pale
And their sobs were broken

Like snow on pure petals
Or your hands on my kisses
Fell the autumn leaves

Have a lovely reading week, everyone!

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