Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Stephane Mallarme

Stephane Mallarme can be considered amongst my most favourite poets. French, living at the end of the 19th century, Mallarme was at the vanguard of an epoch that I believe has not yet been surpassed. Contemporaries such as Paul Verlaine, Paul Valery, Arthur Rimbaud, Marcel Proust and Charles Baudelaire form for me a rich period of literary creation.

Mallarme for me comes as close to a Shakespearean voice as can be found outside of England. You get a sense that Mallarme's command of the language is in total keeping with the greats of any culture. He was to court controversy in his career, having his career as a school teacher hampered by reactions to his poetic output.

Mallarme held informal literary gatherings at his apartment in Paris called Mardis (meaning Tuesdays, when they were held). There the cream of the literary elite would meet, and mostly listen to Mallarme, but also profess their own views on literature. It is these sorts of meetings that are the lifeblood of a literary culture.

Mallarme can be considered an innovator and experimenter, but also a voice that held true to many of the traditions of the past. In this he found his greatness. His poetry is at times difficult to read, but persistence in the face of these difficulties bares much fruit, as so many have found.

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