The Head

08-05 Cendrars
Blaise Cendrars
1887 – 1961

The guillotine is the masterpiece of plastic art
Its click
Creates perpetual motion
Everyone knows about Christopher Columbus’ egg
Which was a flat egg, a fixed egg, the egg of an inventor
Archipenko’s sculpture is the first ovoidal egg
Held in intense equilibrium
Like an immobile top
On its animated point
It throws off
Multicolored waves
Color zones
And turns in depth

The Country Justice

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 400th birthday.

07-08 Fontaine
Jean de la Fontaine
1621 – 1695


Two lawyers to their cause so well adhered,
A country justice quite confused appeared,
By them the facts were rendered so obscure
With which the truth remained he was not sure.
At length, completely tired, two straws he sought
Of diff’rent lengths, and to the parties brought.
These in his hand he held:—the plaintiff drew
(So fate decreed) the shortest of the two.
On this the other homeward took his way,
To boast how nicely he had gained the day.

The bench complained: the magistrate replied
Don’t blame I pray—’tis nothing new I’ve tried;
Courts often judge at hazard in the law,
Without deciding by the longest straw.

The Voice

We present this work in honor of the 85th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Henri de Regnier
1864 – 1936


I do not wish anyone to be near my sadness—
Not even your dear step and your loved face,
Nor your indolent hand which caresses with a finger
The lazy ribbon and the closed book.

Leave me. Let my door today remain closed;
Do not open my window to the fresh wind of morning;
My heart today is miserable and sullen
And everything seems to me somber and everything seems vain.

My sadness comes from something further than myself;
It is strange to me and is not of me;
And every man, whether he sings or he laughs or he loves,
In his time hears that which speaks low to him,

And something then stirs and awakens,
Is perturbed, spreads and laments in him,
Because of this dull voice which says in his ear
That the flower of life in its fruit is ashes.


Translation by Eli Siegel

Love Sonnet III

We present this work in honor of the 425th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Madeleine de l’Aubespine
1546 – 1596


Let the earth cease its turning, suddenly,
And the fixed stars travel the firmament;
Let somber Saturn shine, benevolent;
Jupiter rule the hosts beneath the sea;

Let Mars turn peaceful; Sun’s lush clarity
Turn dim, then dark; grow motionless, outspent;
Venus unloving; Mercury, content,
Changeless; Moon square, no more a circle be;

Let fire weigh heavy and the earth weigh light;
Water feel dry and warm; and let the flight
Of fish go coursing, grazing through the sky,

Sooner than might another know my love.
Born was I but to grant you all thereof;
For you alone I live, and for you, die.


Translation by Norman R. Shapiro

Tears Are Alike

In honor of V-E Day, we present this work by a poet of the French Resistance.

Louis Aragon
1897 – 1982


In the grey sky were porcelain angels
In the grey sky were stifled cries
I remember those days at Mainz
The Black Rhine and the weeping Loreleis

You would find sometimes at the end of an alley
A Frenchman dead with a knife-blade in the back
You would find sometimes that the peace was cruel
For all the young white wine of the terraces

I drank their transparent Kirschwasser
I drank the vows they whispered with clasped hand
How lovely were the palaces and churches
I was twenty then, I did not understand

What did I know about days of defeat
When you r country is a love forbidden
When you need the voice of false prophets
To bring lost hope to life again ?

I remember songs that touched the heart
I remember signs chalked in red
Found in the morning scribbled on walls
We never once deciphered what they said

Who can say where memory begins
Who can say where the present ends
Where the past becomes a sentimental ballad
And sorrow a paper yellowed with age?

Like a child surprised among his dreams
The blank looks of the vanquished made you
Then, at the tramp of guard relieving guard
The Rhenish silence shuddered to its heart.

Anywhere Out of the World

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 200th birthday.

Charles Baudelaire
1821 – 1867


This life is a hospital where every patient is possessed with the desire to change beds; one man would like to
suffer in front of the stove, and another believes that he would recover his health beside the window.
It always seems to me that I should feel well in the place where I am not, and this question of removal is one
which I discuss incessantly with my soul.
‘Tell me, my soul, poor chilled soul, what do you think of going to live in Lisbon? It must be warm there, and there
you would invigorate yourself like a lizard. This city is on the sea-shore; they say that it is built of marble
and that the people there have such a hatred of vegetation that they uproot all the trees. There you have a landscape
that corresponds to your taste! a landscape made of light and mineral, and liquid to reflect them!’
My soul does not reply.
‘Since you are so fond of stillness, coupled with the show of movement, would you like to settle in Holland,
that beatifying country? Perhaps you would find some diversion in that land whose image you have so often admired
in the art galleries. What do you think of Rotterdam, you who love forests of masts, and ships moored at the foot of
My soul remains silent.
‘Perhaps Batavia attracts you more? There we should find, amongst other things, the spirit of Europe
married to tropical beauty.’
Not a word. Could my soul be dead?
‘Is it then that you have reached such a degree of lethargy that you acquiesce in your sickness? If so, let us
flee to lands that are analogues of death. I see how it is, poor soul! We shall pack our trunks for Tornio. Let us go
farther still to the extreme end of the Baltic; or farther still from life, if that is possible; let us settle at the Pole. There
the sun only grazes the earth obliquely, and the slow alternation of light and darkness suppresses variety and
increases monotony, that half-nothingness. There we shall be able to take long baths of darkness, while for our
amusement the aurora borealis shall send us its rose-coloured rays that are like the reflection of Hell’s own
At last my soul explodes, and wisely cries out to me: ‘No matter where! No matter where! As long as it’s out
of the world!’

The Last Butterfly

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 150th birthday.

Rosemonde Gérard
1871 – 1953


When the cricket no longer sings
And one is faced with the autumn,
One is surprised, on some grey morning,
To see the last butterfly wings.

More gold, azure, or scarlet,
Its colour evenly spread;
The ash found around it
Lost in the earth’s sandy bed.

Whence, and through which door, does it come?
Is this, in the dead leaf of autumn,
The only butterfly living,

Or, dead, midst living snow,
The slight, transparent shadow
Of a butterfly from spring, long ago?


Translation by David Paley

The Awakening

We present this work in honor of the 145th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Louise Colet
1810 – 1876

Winter is over
The earth regains its youth
My love, do you not feel the warm breeze
that caresses us?

Do you not smile
as the sun warms our souls
and quickens our spirit?

Do you not welcome the mist that
disperses the tearful and bitter days
of yore?

No more sad dreams!
Oh let us live in empyrean serenity
whose happy hours will chase away
those long and somber days.

The air is perfumed,
The billowing clouds form intoxicating shapes
Do you not respond to their allure?

Do you not hear whispers that
penetrate your soul and your senses?
The treetops shiver in the woods
the waves and the breezes, all sigh softly.

All of these voices murmur in one voice
to our hearts, saying “love one another.”
My love, let us celebrate nature!
Her awakening will revive us!

Translation by Fern Nesson


We present this work in honor of the poet’s 145th birthday.

Leon-Paul Fargue
1876 – 1947


A name, Cromac, makes us speak
Of a dark bay… O death of love,
Be less sad for weeping
Other names, other days

Where you were like the blind man
Looking at the dark red
And playing with his scratched hands
Over the old bench of his childhood…

Like the blind man, when he dreams
And grumbles, and when his heart
Scolds the warm bodied beauty
Watching him, in tears…

Cromac. The House under the branches
Whose window with flower eyes
Separated her long white hands
Gently, noiselessly, over your heart…

Choose Life

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 125th birthday.

Andre Breton
1896 – 1966


Choose life instead of those prisms with no depth even if their colors are purer
Instead of this hour always hidden instead of these terrible vehicles of cold flame
Instead of these overripe stones
Choose this heart with its safety catch
Instead of that murmuring pool
And that white fabric singing in the air and the earth at the same time
Instead of that marriage blessing joining my forehead to total vanity’s
Choose life

Choose life with its conspiratorial sheets
Its scars from escapes
Choose life choose that rose window on my tomb
The life of being here nothing but being here
Where one voice says Are you there where another answers Are you there
I’m hardly here at all alas
And even when we might be making fun of what we kill
Choose life

Choose life choose life venerable Childhood
The ribbon coming out of a fakir
Resembles the playground slide of the world
Though the sun is only a shipwreck
Insofar as a woman’s body resembles it
You dream contemplating the whole length of its trajectory
Or only while closing your eyes on the adorable storm named your hand
Choose life

Choose life with its waiting rooms
When you know you’ll never be shown in
Choose life instead of those health spas
Where you’re served by drudges
Choose life unfavorable and long
When the books close again here on less gentle shelves
And when over there the weather would be better than better it would be free yes
Choose life

Choose life as the pit of scorn
With that head beautiful enough
Like the antidote to that perfection it summons and it fears
Life the makeup on God’s face
Life like a virgin passport
A little town like Pont-á-Mousson
And since everything’s already been said
Choose life instead