Mortality, Artistic Production, and Apollinaire’s Merlin

“Merlin knows from experience that without the rhythm of existence, the world would be as barren as the crossroads, and feeling and poetry would be extinct. He has learned that in order to create something immortal the poet must first understand his own mortality; he must suffer sadness, feel misfortune, and participate, above all, in the rhythm of life. Birth and pain, creation and suffering, are inseparable; this is the lesson Merlin has learned.”

-Richard Stamelman, Wesleyan University

Apollinaire certainly lived through his share of pain and suffering, suffering a head wound in World War 1. He wrote one of the first Surrealist literary works ever, about a talking breast, and was an early advocate for Cubism. He was also one of the first poets in the 20th century to play with the visual appearance of words on the page with his collection “Calligrames”. His collection “Alcools”, which contains “Merlin”, is a foundational work in 20th century French poetry.

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