Do You Know Proust’s Illustrated Poems?
Affectionate, fresh, calm and sometimes a little painful, these newly discovered poems show us yet another side of Marcel Proust.
A recent bilingual collection (French/English) of Marcel Proust’s unpublished works could expand —even further and in a different manner— the ghost of the literary seeker of lost time. Compiled by Harold Augenbraum, cofounder of the Proust Society in America, this edition is a little treasure for those who enjoy wandering to the stimulating lands of Proustian polychromy.
Even though it would seem inevitable when reading his poems to try and place them in relation to his entire oeuvre (his Great Book, or ‘Cathedral’, as academics call it, his stories and his diaries), these poems belong to their own existence, one which does not necessarily dialogue with the slow, verbose and descriptive prose of his books, nor in his confessions and memoirs –– each poem is whole under its own poetic rules. That is what is so outstanding of this new acquisition. That while we are programmed to approach his work with plenty of time on our hands and with a willingness to travel to a perfectly delineated world, the poems are simple, as drafts from a notebook, limited to a few words. Their poetic structure is a single light that illuminates all.
When I try to draw
Your canals, your roofs, your steeple
I feel I could love
Still sun and church bells
Dry out quickly
For high mass, also brioches
And gleaming steeple.
In his poems, Proust does not only show mastery as an intimate and universal poet, but he shows his own vulnerabilities and his experimentations with different styles… He moves among genres and traditions as a marvellous seafarer. He writes poetry as someone who embroiders a handkerchief or as someone who folds a paper to create a ship.
Little project of sweet stained glass
To make it was a pain in the ass
On the left are Félicie and Marie
Who wash clothes and complain incessantly.
On the right Buninuls cannot open Legras powder
And Binchdinuls comes for alumsinum
Buninuls helps by knee and arms
Binchdinuls is divided by a gothic column
Everything here to show Binchdinuls what day it is
Not a day goes by without sending a little inscripartus.
All these were written for himself, for his great loves (music, art, men and women) and sometimes as letters to his friends. Perhaps he never imagined that they would be collected and edited for infinite eyes to analyse and enjoy as if they were small, lost links. Taken as single piece, the book The Collected Poems paints a portrait of the amorous, jealous, and passionate Proust, but always in control of his aesthetic and stylistic skills. In other words, each poem deserves the immersion of the reader, and from that state of attentiveness he can reach his own conclusions.
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