Blaise Cendrars exceeded unexpectedly the established role of the poet, he did not hesitate even to keep certain of his poems closed for years in a chest without any distress for their chance, in order to be a spectator; to see which path would poetry follow without the presence of his own texts.
Since those heroic years so many things have changed radically in the space of poetry, in its evaluation and its critical confrontation. A thing however remains absolutely the same: the force of authentic poetry. Such is the poetry of Blaise Cendrars.
Its powers are inexhaustible; it is a poetry that stands energetic, full of life, always modern and provocative. If Rimbaud was the true founder and pillar of the spirit of the new poetry, Cendrars was the giant reviser and the builder of its brand new structure.
Cendrars was, beyond all questions, the leader of the poetic Modernism. Already in 1914, when Ezra Pound was preoccupied translating Latin epigrams and trying to control the aesthetics of his songs; Cendrars had completed two of his masterpieces: “Easter In New York” and “The Prose Of The Transsiberian”.
Cendrars put to use in his works the manners of advertising daily products, journalism, and much of the atmosphere of the Parisian cabarets, cafes, and the tempers of Jazz. Yet he was one of the few who gave distinctive emphasis to the management of the poetical subject, rather to the subject itself. Cendrars was also one of the few, if not the first one among the poets of his generation, who produced so important fruits, believing in the differentiations of the poetic flow of reason for the benefit of spontaneity and discovery during the creation of the poem. Moreover he was the poet who initiated the poetry of the parallel or simultaneous correlations, where the poem reflects at least two opposite forces whose relation constitutes the meaning of the poem.
Cendrars was deeply aware of the fact that the authentic experience had already begun to be replaced by the common spectacle; that the paragons were gradually suppressed, but instead of some kind of originality, only the imitations and the constriction prevailed.
Though Blaise Cendrars had deep knowledge of the legacy of the voices of the masters, from the near and the distant literary past; he left everything behind him. Undertook serious risks, advanced into, at first sight, chaotic and incoherent fields; which he conquered with a steady belief in innovation, compassion and consequence.
His goal? It was nothing more than the complete reordination of the world.
Life, experience, does not simply influence writing; together with intellect and spirituality, compose the source of poetical objectivity. “Cendrars taught me that you must live poetry, before you start writing” notified Philippe Soupault. An extraordinary modernist, fundamentally in his real life, Cendrars was the major pioneer of poetical avant-garde with a poetical work that is more than difficult to be compared; even with the entirety of most of the major poets of our time.
Part of the poetics of his extensive poems had their roots in the poetry of the Middle Ages. Have been pointed out certain kinships of Cendrars’ writing with the Swiss Benedictine hymnographer called Notker le Begue; but even more concretely with the type of religious poetry (Latin hymns). Furthermore, the poetry of Cendrars presented a resemblance, framed however in a much more promoted linguistic and formal climate, with the poetry of Remy de Gourmont, whose writings were equally supported on the bases of musicality and syntactic styles of ecclesiastical antiphonaries and hymnals. Anyway, Cendrars was familiar only with one work of Gourmont, “Le Latin Mystique”; his study of Medieval poets of ecclesiastical hymns. And this is confirmed.
Except the three major, and extended, poetical works of Cendrars (The Prose Of The Transsiberian”, “Easter In New York” and “Panama”) who continue to bear such a tremendous influence until today; we have to deal with an astonishing, by means of rhythm, vocabulary and style, poetic production, that himself had characterized as “verbal snapshots”. In most of these poems was recognized, for the first time, the so-called “poetic cubism”, a pioneering movement that made a little later its official appearance in certain avant-garde poets, who developed that style (with Reverdy as best of the kind); a term however that did not correspond satisfactorily in the technique of Cendrars and fell short in effect of the attribution of his linguistic originality.
As we know, Cendrars was never indentified with any literary movement; he was completely indifferent to the conflicts of characterizations and the declassifications of the poetic idioms of his time. He moved forward, all alone, in the precarious horizon of the unknown waters of poetical creation; delivering a hard to define but insuperable work, which the known American writer Henry Miller determined as “a splendiferous hulk of a poem dedicated to the archipelago of insomnia”.
Such a poet was Blaise Cendrars, a Poet. A true writer with a made up name, whom life baptized several times in its innumerable maneuvers of changes; the Hand that got lost in the Legion made the Remington sound like a furious demon.
The modifications of Blaise Cendrars were those that fixed a unique prospect in the space of writing; its viewpoint and openness toward the endless horizon of poetry consist the most powerful points of departure for the poets of today.
Blaise Cendrars: a major poetic spirit and a catalyst.