“Mesure parfaite et réinventée”

Édouard Glissant Reinvents Nineteenth-Century French Poetry


A close look at Glissant’s La Terre, le Feu, l’Eau et les Vents. Une anthologie de la poésie du Tout-Monde reveals that, though poetry occupies an important place overall, nineteenth-century French works have been selected sparingly. Baudelaire is represented by three prose poems—“Les fenêtres,” “Les Foules,” and “L’Étranger”; Hugo is represented by “La Pitié suprême” as well as an extract from La Légende des siècles; there is an extract from the second song of the Chants de Maldoror by Lautréamont; Mallarmé’s sonnet “Ses purs ongles” appears; and, finally, Rimbaud is represented by “Les Assis” from Poésies, “L’Éclat” from Une saison en enfer, et “Génie,” taken from Illuminations. Unlike other important poets writing in French—such as Yves Bonnefoy, Philippe Jaccottet, and Michel Deguy, for whom Rimbaud, Baudelaire and Mallarmé are vital—Glissant seems at first sight rather indifferent toward his nineteenth-century predecessors. romanticism, the symbolists, the Parnassians, and the “Else-where” so dear to the nineteenth century1 apparently have but little to say to the Martinican poet. For the explicit reasons he gives in his first major work on poetics, L’Intention poétique (“Poetic Intention,” 1969),2 Glissant was concerned to distinguish himself from this kind of poetry, in spite of the revolutionary aspects of some of its most important figures (especially Rimbaud, Mallarmé, and Lautréamont).


Slave Trade Lightning Flash French Literature Poetic Language French Work 
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© Joseph Acquisto 2013

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