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Short biography - Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) is a French poet, pioneer of modern poetry. Guillaume Apollinaire lives at a pivotal time in French poetry. He knew the end of symbolism and died before the Dadaist and Surrealist revolutions, which his own pioneering experience inspired. When the First World War broke out, Guillaume Apollinaire was mobilized. Wounded in the head by a burst of bush, very weakened, he died of the Spanish flu.
Apollinaire, art critic and poet
Born in Rome August 26, 1880, son of a fanciful Polish aristocrat, Guillaume Apollinaris de Kostrowitzky grew up in Italy, then on the French Riviera and in Paris. From an unknown father (probably an Italian officer), he was educated by his mother. A scholar, he became a tutor at Neuglück Castle in the Rhineland. This region and its folklore inspire its poetic universe. There he meets Annie Playden who makes him know love, before rejecting it, which inspires him The song of the unloved, published in 1919. Back in Paris, a bank employee, he became a friend of the painter Pablo Picasso and the writers Max Jacob and Alfred Jarry.
From 1910 to 1914, he chronicled the exhibitions at L’Intransigeant. From 1912, he also directed his own review, Les Soirées de Paris, in which he presented his personal ideas. It was he who coined the term "cubism" around 1911. He also maintained relations with the Italian Futurists, those painters who, under the leadership of the writer Marinetti, underlined the aggressiveness of modernity by representing machines. Finally, in many respects, Apollinaire appears as the precursor of Dadaism and surrealism, especially with his Calligrams, poems whose verses form a drawing.
The inventor of calligrams
First linked to the Symbolist movement, Guillaume Apollinaire gradually broke away from it to get involved in the innovative artistic movements of the early twentieth century. Some of his poems, related to the torments of his life (especially in love) and written from 1898 to 1912, are collected in 1913 under the title of ’Alcohols. With this collection, Apollinaire upsets and renews poetry: his rhymes are approximate, his verses irregular and he likes to break the classical poetic rhythm. What is even more surprising is the complete absence of punctuation.
Apollinaire participated in the intellectual and artistic life of the capital at a time when Cubism was developing. He is already writing the "poems-conversations" which will form his Calligrams (1918). The best known vehicle for values of peace (The stabbed dove and the water jet). Guillaume Apollinaire was also interested in theater and journalism. He is also the author of poetic tales (the rotting wizard, 1904), news (the murdered poet, 1916) and erotic stories (Exploits of a young don Juan, 1907). His work influenced the greatest poets of the twentieth century such as Paul Éluard, Louis Aragon or Jacques Prévert.
Apollinaire and the war
In 1914, he wanted to join the army voluntarily. As he was not yet a French citizen, his application was not accepted until eighteen months later. During the war, he fought bravely. He shares the appalling life of the infantry, but does not give a realistic and exhaustive description of it. He only evokes the forehead through a poetry that remains confidential.
His war poems, patriotic and exuberant, ignore the horrors of combat and exalt life. They also reflect the pain of losing companions. Injured by a shrapnel in the temple on March 17, 1916, he had to undergo trepanation. He still makes represent Tiresias udders, a "supernaturalist" drama described as surreal by Breton. He was finally killed by the Spanish flu on November 9, 1918, two days before the armistice. His funeral procession meets a victory parade.
- Guillaume Apollinaire, biography of Laurence Campa. Gallimard, 2013.
- Apollinaire. Portrait of a poet between two shores, by Philippe Bonnet. Blue & Yellow Editions, 2018.
- Guillaume Apollinaire: A biography of the 1914-1918 war, by Annette Becker. Tallandier, 2009.