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About this poet

Born in 1896 to a working-class parents from Tinchenbray (Orne), Normandy, André Breton wrote poetry and studied medicine and psychology at a young age.

During World War I, Breton worked in psychiatric units with traumatized soldiers, employing the work of Freud, whom he had met, in his practice. It was during this time that Breton met Jacque Vaché, a rebellious soldier who would become a friend and important influence. Until Vaché's death 1919, Breton corresponded with him for many years; those letters were published as Letters of War (Lettres de guerre) in 1919.

Although originally a Dadaist, Breton eventually broke away from this group, owing to aesthetic differences. In 1924, he published the Surrealist Manifesto, which outlines surrealist preoccupations and is considered to be the beginning of the Surrealist Movement. It also established Breton as the spearhead of Surrealism, a role he would maintain for the entire duration of the movement.

In the manifesto, Breton defined surrealism as "pure psychic automatism, by which an attempt is made to express—either verbally, in writing or in any other manner— the true functioning of thought. The dictation of thought, in the absence of all control by reason, excluding any aesthetic or moral preoccupation."

During his lifetime, Breton produced a tremendous body of work that contained poetry, novels, criticism, and theory. Of his oeuvre, the collection of poems Mad Love (1937), the novel Nadja (1928) and the critical text Communicating Vessels (1932) are considered to be his most valuable contributions to the literary world.

Breton died in Paris on September 28, 1966.

It Was Going on Five in the Morning

André Breton
It was going on five in the morning
The ship of steam stretched its chain to shatter the windows
And outside
A glowworm
Lifted Paris like a leaf
It was only a long trembling scream
A scream from the Maternity Hospital nearby
FINIS FOUNDRY FANATIC
But whatever joy escaped in the exhalation of that pain
It seems to me that I was falling for a long time
I still had my fist clenched around a handful of grass
And suddenly that rustle of flowers and needles of ice
Those green eyebrows that shooting-star pendulum
From what depths was the bell actually able to rise again
The hermetic bell
Which nothing last night made me foresee would stop on this landing
The bell whose sides read
Undine
Moving to raise your spearheaded Sagittarius pedal
You had carved the infallible signs
Of my enchantment
With a dagger whose coral handle forks into infinity
So that your blood and mine 
Would become one

From Andre Breton: Selections edited by Mark Polizzoti. Copyright © 2003. Reprinted by permission of University of California Press. "It Was Going on Five in the Morning" translated by Zack Rogow and Bill Zavatsky. All rights reserved.

From Andre Breton: Selections edited by Mark Polizzoti. Copyright © 2003. Reprinted by permission of University of California Press. "It Was Going on Five in the Morning" translated by Zack Rogow and Bill Zavatsky. All rights reserved.

André  Breton

André Breton

In 1924, he published the Surrealist Manifesto, which outlines surrealist preoccupations and is considered to be the beginning of the Surrealist Movement

by this poet

poem
Choose life instead of those prisms with no depth even if their colors are purer
Instead of this hour always hidden instead of these terrible vehicles of cold flame
Instead of these overripe stones
Choose this heart with its safety catch
Instead of that murmuring pool
And that white fabric singing in the air and
poem

Someone just died but I'm still alive and yet I don't have a soul anymore. All I have left is a transparent body inside of which transparent doves hurl themselves on a transparent dagger held by a transparent hand. I see struggle in all its beauty, real struggle which nothing can measure, just