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Calligrammes: Poems of Peace and War (1913-1916)

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Calligrammes: Poems of Peace and War (1913-1916)
By Guillaume Apollinaire. A Bilingual Edition (French and English). Introduction by S. I. Lockerbie. Commentary by Anne Hyde Greet and S. I. Lockerbie. English translation by Anne Hyde Greet. (Berkeley, University of California Press: 2004. Pg. xii, 513.) ISBN: 0-520-24212-2.

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - February 14, 2005

In 1880, Guillaume Apollinaire was born in Rome, Italy, but received most of his education in France. During his relatively short life he was an poet, writer, art critic, lecturer, and soldier. Although wounded during combat on the battle fields of the First World War, Apollinaire succumbed in 1918 not his war wounds, but to Spanish influenza.

Apollinaire composed several influencial works during his life, including several plays such as Les Mamelles de Tirésias. He is however, best remembered for his poetry. Two books of his poems, Alcools: Poèmes 1898-1913 and Calligrammes: Poèmes de la paix et de la guerre 1913- 1916 are his two most famous works. The second of these books, Calligrammes: Poems of Peace and War (1913-1916) has at long last been translated into English and published in a bilingual edition that has the French and English versions of Apollinaire's poems on facing pages. This gives both French and English speakers an opportunity to discover Apollinaire's passion and poetic genius, while also providing an excellent opportunity for study of the opposing language.

This new bilingual edition of Calligrammes, published by the University of California Press, also includes an in-depth introduction by S. I. Lockerbie that examines Apollinaire's life, his poetry, what influences are found in his poems, and how the tone and texture of Apollinaire's poems differ in the two collections, Alcools and Calligrammes. A detailed commentary on each poem, written by Anne Hyde Greet and S. I. Lockerbie is located at the end of the book. A brief bibliography is also included.

If you've never encountered Apollinaire's poems before, you'll be delighted not only in his poetic imagery, but also by the imagery found in how the poems are physically structured. While many of his poems take traditional line form, others have the words and letters arranged to create a picture - a technique that Apollinaire referred to as "visual lyricism."

Calligrammes: Poems of Peace and War (1913-1916) serves many roles. It is a book that is edifying and entertaining to read, while also being a book suitable for rigorous study. It can be used equally well in language or poetry classes as well as a supplemental text in some university level history and literature courses. The inclusion of Anne Hyde Greet and S. I. Lockerbie commentaries on the poems also makes this book ideal for scholars and interested readers who wish to gain a deeper understanding of Apollinaire and his poetry.

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