About this poet

Guillaume Apollinaire (Wilhelm Albert Vladimir Apollinaris Kostrowitzky) was born in Rome on August 26, 1880. He purposefully kept his parentage clouded in speculation but was most likely the illegitimate child of Angelica Kostrowitzky, a Polish woman living in the Vatican. Apollinaire was raised in the gambling halls of Monaco, Paris, and the French Riviera; during his education in Cannes, Nice, and Monaco, he assumed the identity of a Russian prince.

In his twenties he worked for a Parisian bank and kept company with artists such as Picasso, Braques, Chagall, Max Jacob, Eric Satie, Marcel Duchamp, and his lover, Marie Laurencin. During this time, he published a number of semi-pornographic books, proclaiming that the writing of the Marquis de Sade would gain prominence in the new century.

Apollinaire's first collection of poetry, L'enchanteur pourrissant, appeared in 1909, and his reputation was established in 1913 with Alcools, a melange of classical versification and modern imagery. Apollinaire had a reputation as a thief—he was detained for a week in 1911 on suspicion of stealing the Mona Lisa—and decided to become a French national by enlisting in the infantry during World War I.

He was stationed on the front in Champagne until 1916, when he suffered a head wound and had to be trepanned. He outlined his poetic and political beliefs in L'esprit nouveau et les poëtes in 1917. In 1918, after a series of short-lived affairs, he married Jacqueline Kolb. War-weakened, Apollinaire died shortly after of the Spanish Flu on November 9, 1918, in Paris. Calligrammes, a collection of concrete poetry, was published a few months after his death.

Apollinaire was an important part of several avant-garde movements in French literature and art at the start of the twentieth century. His influences include the Symbolist poets of the former generation: Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Jules Laforgue, and Tristan Corbière.

His work is often concerned with the clash between the modern and the traditional, often juxtaposing drastically different stylistic elements: it exhibits gritty modern imagery in traditional forms, for example. His book Peintres cubistes (1913) expounded on the theory behind cubism and analyzed the work of important cubists. His play La mamelles de Tirésias, which was made into an opera by Francis Poulenc in 1947, is one of the earliest examples of Surrealism—a word he is credited for coining.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

L'enchanteur pourrissant (1909)
Alcools (1913)
Le poète assassiné (1916)
Calligrammes (1918)

Drama

La mamelles de Tirésias (1917)

Fiction

Les onze milles virges (1906)
Les mémoires d'un jeune Don Juan (1907)

Non-Fiction

Peintres cubistes (1913)
L'esprit nouveau et les poètes (1918)

Mirabeau Bridge

Guillaume Apollinaire, 1880 - 1918
Under Mirabeau Bridge the river slips away
       And lovers
     Must I be reminded
Joy came always after pain

       The night is a clock chiming
       The days go by not I

We're face to face and hand in hand 
       While under the bridges
     Of embrace expire
Eternal tired tidal eyes

       The night is a clock chiming
       The days go by not I

Love elapses like the river
       Love goes by
     Poor life is indolent
And expectation always violent

       The night is a clock chiming
       The days go by not I

The days and equally the weeks elapse 
       The past remains the past
     Love remains lost
Under Mirabeau Bridge the river slips away

       The night is a clock chiming
       The days go by not I

From Alcools by Guillaume Apollinaire, translated by Donald Revell. Copyright © 1995 by Donald Revell. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved.

Guillaume Apollinaire

Guillaume Apollinaire

Guillaume Apollinaire (Wilhelm Albert Vladimir Apollinaris Kostrowitzky) was born in Rome on

by this poet

poem
At last you're tired of this elderly world

Shepherdess O Eiffel Tower this morning the bridges are bleating

You're fed up living with antiquity

Even the automobiles are antiques
Religion alone remains entirely new religion
Remains as simple as an airport hangar

In all Europe only you O Christianism are not