Monday, March 18, 2013

March 18 - Stéphane Mallarmé

French symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé was born on March 18, 1842, in Paris. A teacher who spent much of his life in near-poverty, his Paris salons for the discussion of poetry, art and philosophy influenced many major writers (largely symbolists), including Yeats, Rilke, Valéry, Verlaine and others. His own works, notoriously difficult to translate from the French, helped inspire early 20th-century movements such as Dadaism, Surrealism and Futurism. His poems focus on the “pure sound” of words rather than their meaning, and many were transformed into musical works, including Debussy's “Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune” (1894) and compositions by Ravel, Milhaud and, more recently, Pierre Boulez. Mallarmé’s bizarre poem “Un coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hazard” (“A roll of the dice will never abolish chance,” 1897) placed free verse in unusual typographic layouts in which two pages are read as a single panel. Pictured: Portrait by Édouard Manet.

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