Stéphane Mallarmé

(b. 1842, Paris - d. 1898, Paris)

Stéphane Mallarmé was born in Paris in 1842. He taught English in from 1864 in Tournon, Besançon, Avignon and Paris until his retirement in 1893. Malarmé began writing poetry at an early age under the influence of Charles Baudelaire. His first poems started to appear in magazines in the 1860s. Mallarmé's most well known poems are L'Aprés Midi D'un Faun (The Afternoon of a Faun) (1865), which inspired Debussy's tone poem (1894) of the same name and was illustrated by Manet. Among his other works are Hérodiade (1896) and Toast Funèbre (A Funeral Toast), which was written in memory of the author Théopile Gautier. Mallarmé's later works include the experimental poem Un Coup de Dés (1914), published posthumously. From the 1880s Mallarmé was the center of a group of french writers in Paris, including André Gide and Paul Valéry, to whom he communicated his ideas on poetry and art. According to his theories, nothing lies beyond reality, but within this nothingness lies the essence of perfect forms and it is the task of the poet to reveal and crystallize these essences. Mallarmé's poetry employs condensed figures and unorthodox syntax. Each poem is build around a central symbol, idea, or metaphor and consists on subordinate images that illustrate and help to develop the idea. Mallarmé's vers libre and word music shaped the 1890s Decadent movement. For the rest of his life Mallarmé devoted himself to putting his literary theories into practice and writing his Grand Oeuvre (Great Work). Mallarmé died in Paris on September 9, 1898 without completing this work.

* Kuusankosken kaupunginkirjasto © 1997

Books
(Click to buy)
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Selected Poetry and Prose
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Mallarme in Prose
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Collected Poems
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Mallarme's Children: Symbolism and the Renewal of Experience
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Mallarme: The Poet and His Circle
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For Anatole's Tomb (Fyfield Books)
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To Purify the Words of the Tribe : The Major Verse Poems of Stephane Mallarme
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Selected Poems
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Stephane Mallarme: Selected Poems

**The work of the great French Symbolist poet Stephane Mallarmé has often been considered the best example of "pure poetry." Mallarmé dealt in metaphorical obliquities and attempted to practice alchemy with words - to create a kind of poetry where the word as symbol would have a new mobility and would achieve new intensities and refinements of meaning. Roger Fry wrote of Mallarmé that "certainly no poet has set words with greater art in their surroundings, or given them by their setting, a more sudden and unexpected evocative power" and that "for him it was essential to bring out all the cross-correspondences and interpenetrations of the verbal images." Mallarme's influence on modern poetry, in English as well as in French, has been great and pervasive. Such a poet as Wallace Stevens owes much to Mallarmé , and it is Mallarmé whom T. S. Eliot paraphrases in Little Gidding of his Four Quartets. Mallarmé's influence is visible in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. Debussy's tone poem The Afternoon of a Faun, and the ballet immortalized by Nijinski, are based on a famous poem of Mallarmé , while the visual pattern of his poem A Throw of the Dice Will Never Abolish Chance foreshadowed the typographical experimentation of contemporary poetry. Certain of Mallarmé's aesthetic theories parallel those of the abstract painters of today, while his poetical syntax was compared by Roger Fry to the technique of the Cubists.