Guillaume Apollinaire’s Surrealist Poetry


For some you are a mask
Disguising their true self.
For some – a fashion choice
Residing on a shelf.
A window’s what you are to me,
Through which I see the world.
Without you it’s so unclear,
And shapeless, and all burred.
Group Surrealist Poem
I would kill for some Chick-fil-A right now”
“The lights are so bright”
“Power Naps”
“I want to go back to the Bahama’s”
“I really want to take a nap right now”

In this paper, I will discuss my calligramme and the surrealistic poem created by our group in connection with the works of Guillaume Apollinaire. In some of his poems, Apollinaire focuses on simple objects, such as a tie or a pocket watch to demonstrate what these objects may symbolize or represent to their owners or observers. In my calligramme, I focus on eyeglasses and different meanings they may carry for people. The poem is written as a brief thought one may have by simply looking at this object. In turn, the group poem presents a collection of such thoughts people may have while zoning out during the day. Just like the works of Apollinaire, these poems explore one’s thoughts as the reflection of the material world.

For this project, I created a calligramme that is shaped like a pair of eyeglasses. I specifically wanted to incorporate a simple day-to-day object into my poem. My intention as an author was to present a basic item and demonstrate how it can be much more meaningful than it seems. Planning my calligramme, I thought of things people use on a daily basis. I chose a plain object that is taken for granted by the majority of users. In my calligramme, I never mentioned this object; instead, I addressed it. I spoke to it as if it was alive and could hear me. Also, since the object was never named, I shaped by poem accordingly so that the reader could understand that I was talking about eyeglasses in it. Calling eyeglasses “a mask”, “a fashion choice”, and “a window”, I intended to show the multidimensional meaning they can carry in social, psychological, and physical domains. Expressing my perception of eyeglasses as something else, I made connections between the reality and thoughts.

In his poem The Tie and The Pocket-Watch, Apollinaire also uses day-to-day objects and assigns them with deep and emotional meanings. For example, the author calls a tie “painful” and addresses the man wearing it by writing, “take it off if you want to breathe “. In these lines, a tie is associated with social conformity and restrictions people have to follow willing to fit in various norms. Writing about the pocket watch, Apollinaire associates this object with fun people “have passing the hours”. He describes several happy memories thus juxtaposing the two objects as the tie represents restriction and the watch – freedom. In my calligramme, eyeglasses are described as an object with multiple meanings. This approach is different from the one chosen by Apollinaire because his objects have a strict line of associations.

The surrealist poem created by my group also focused on the reflection of people’s thoughts. Reading this poem, it is easy to notice that only the most common thoughts and desires that most people tend to experience throughout the day were included. Specifically, two lines mention naps: “Power Naps” and “I really want to take a nap right now”; and the first line is about hunger: “I would kill for some Chick-fil-A right now”. Using these themes, the authors made the poem ultimately relatable for any reader. At the same time, an image that definitely pops out in the poem is that of the Chick-fil-A. I believe that incorporating this image, the authors tested the limits of what is considered an artwork. In other words, a technique similar to those employed in modern art was used. The artists of the 1960s and 70s liked to transform day-to-day objects into works of art demonstrating that the consumerist tendencies of the modern world are to be reflected in art.

Breton’s All Paradise Is Not Lost is different from the group surrealist poem. Specifically, Breton’s work focuses on unrealistic images while the group poem engages down-to-earth ideas and thoughts. At the same time, I’ve Dreamed of You So Much by Desnos revolves around the author’s desires and thoughts that he experiences on a daily basis. Of course, those thoughts would land much higher on the hierarchy of needs than the ones presented in the group poem. Specifically, in the poem by Desnos, the author is deeply and passionately in love with someone and seeks the response to his feelings and some affection – “I’ve dreamed of you so much that you’re losing your reality”. In the group poem, the authors express their basic desires for food, sleep, and rest – “”I would kill for some Chick-fil-A right now”, “I want to go back to the Bahama’s”, “I really want to take a nap right now”. The differences between the group poem and the works of Desnos and Breton are based on the connection with reality, which is weaker in the poets’ masterpieces and stronger in the creation of my peers. This difference means that the ultimate objectives of the authors did not match. Desnos and Breton wanted to describe sophisticated thoughts, while my group collected common and primitive desires and built the poem around them.

This assignment included a number of challenging and engaging aspects. In particular, for me, the challenging part was to select a unique topic and shape for my calligramme. It was quite difficult to plan and organize its appearance and then consider its size, word count, and shape so that it looked simple and, at the same time, had deep and thoughtful contents. Additionally, when the poem was ready, and the shape thought through, I would it challenging to organize the lines and their directions so that the calligramme was easy to follow for the readers. Overall, creating the poem was extremely engaging, satisfying, and rewarding because, in the end, I had a decent-looking product which I made all by myself. It makes me a little proud, to be honest. Working on this project, I learned to read deeper into the thoughts of other people attempting to capture the original meaning and provide a careful interpretation. Also, I learned to watch my handwriting preventing it from becoming a presentational problem. Finally, I revised my understanding of poetry as a stiff genre with the fixed structure that limited the author’s creativity. Calligrammes allow more freedom, which is a captivating challenge for a creative mind.