the poet

The poet is a giant passing effortlessly through the eye of a needle yet, at the same time, a dwarf filling the universe.

the secret to success

In art one must seek art and not self-satisfaction.

In religion one must seek God and not self-deification.

This will make the task a bit easier.

true modesty

To follow true modesty. To no longer see failure as an injustice, and above all to find others’ success legitimate.

It is not a question of the soul’s grandeur, of resignation, of serene pride. It is a question of flushing out false sentiments that, previously, would deform the situation as a whole. This entire greedy restless world tumbles like stones down the slopes of glaciers. To each his place, his obscurity or his glory. It is a mass of swarming ambitions; but no one is a greater master of their destiny than any other. Those who go to so much trouble to live and float along fail to understand that solitude and selflessness are possible. And yet these become easy, and even pleasurable, when you realize that nothing is less enviable than the success that a difficult character always considers to be undeserved. There is more bitterness to accepting the idea of a glory greater than your talents than to that of an obscurity so great that it risks going unnoticed.

In order to draw nearer to true modesty, one must always prefer the risk of being above the lot that you have been granted rather than below.

Consequently, instead of seeking it one must flee success and prefer injustice, that which makes you value yourself too little to that which would make you value yourself too much.

sublime simplicity

From many complicated appearances, the poet must extract profound reality, in order to reveal sublime simplicity.

the taste of reality

He took one step at a time, not knowing where he should place the next. Turning the corner, the wind swept up the dust and its greedy mouth engulfed all of space.

He began to run, hoping to take flight from one moment to the next, but along the gutter the cobblestones were slippery and his flailing arms couldn’t hold him. As he fell he understood that he was heavier than his dream and he loved, then, the weight that brought him down.

(original in French)

poetry

This effusiveness of the soul and its contact with the poetry that is in all things is the godly part, but only a part, that is why nothing is entirely poetry, neither poets nor their poems. But the contact of the soul with things is poetry, the profound contact, or penetration rather. It is this poetry that has led me to God without my realizing it along arduous paths and through the dark labyrinth of superstition.

psychology

Psychological attempts are false, false and dangerous. They lay claim, basically, to a serious but almost always rash judgment. The psychologist claims to judge the depths of the soul, yet he is unable to reach them, for to us the depths of the soul are but darkness and to God alone a light. The psychologist thus works by observing external manifestations and relates them to the innermost depths, but one cannot discern the depths through what appears on the surface. Luminous air bubbles sometimes rise from the ocean floor. Novelists with psychological pretentions create characters who appear real because they have been built from fragments of real things. But, if you put this same novelist in front of a real being and if you listen to what he has to say about this person, you will discover how little contact he has with who this person really is. All artists put themselves into their art, and novelists—even with psychological pretentions—are sometimes artists. So how can they form a true psychological character or even a copy, while mixing it with their own substance? It is easy to see the absurdity of such a situation. All of Balzac’s characters are false, their situations, their actions are all false. But in the atmosphere that he has created they rarely lack the most cogent reality. Reality is their right to exist; truth, a parade of appearances.

As for modern psychological pseudo-novelists, nothing is more eccentric and comical than their abilities: almost all of them are, basically, repentant or unsuccessful poets. Now, the distinctive feature of a poet is to know and have at his disposal only a single being, a single subject: himself. A poet watches himself live and listens to himself think. The poet is an obscure animal who sometimes writes, and who totally realizes himself when he has the chance to know, to be able to crystallize and condense what he most deeply feels and thinks in the most concentrated manner.

The greatest saints are perhaps known by God alone, as might be the greatest poets.

art

Art is undoubtedly the most beautiful but also the worst of illusions.

author vs reader

Author and reader confront one another, one must either dominate or be dominated.

a poet’s true calling

A poet cannot consent to sacrifice or enslave poetry to any subject or social phenomena whatsoever, without failing in his true calling. His task is to reveal that part of each thing which leads back to poetry.

purity

Only the purity of the means leads to the purity of the artwork.

the image

The image is a pure creation of the mind. It is born not from a comparison but from a juxtaposition of two more or less distant realities.

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The further apart and truer the relationship between two juxtaposed realities, the more powerful the image will be, the greater its emotional power and poetic reality.

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Two realities that have no relationship cannot be juxtaposed profitably. No image will be created. Nor will there be if two identical realities are compared.

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Two unrelated realities do not come together. They oppose one another, occasionally resulting in a brief surprise that can be seductive, though not a formed image.

One rarely obtains any power from such an opposition.

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An image is not powerful because it is violent or fantastic, but because the association of ideas is distant and true.

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The obtained result immediately verifies the correctness of the association.

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Analogy is one of the means of creation, it is an existence of relationships; yet the strength or weakness of the created image depends upon the nature of these relationships.

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It is not a question of creating an image, but that an image arrives on its own wings.

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If you over-establish an image, you will erect a massive pedestal instead of a svelte statue.

real events

A real event has an intensity that can never be equalled by an artwork that would like to imitate it or be its equivalent. Hence art must suggest another kind of emotion to our mind and to our taste. It is not worthy of art for it to be subordinated to material reality. For art to deserve attracting our mind, it must transport us beyond this reality. It is the nobility of the mind to give art its own reality. Thus in art the mind elevates, rises, and is elevated. If it is subordinated to nature and to matter, it is crushed.

lacking confidence

I don’t know of any other oeuvre that has inspired less confidence in its author than my own.

I will not defend it.

I accept that it can be nothing more than proof of my powerlessness.

the pleasure of work

I would like to be one of those who claim to love what they do, and derive pleasure from doing so, for, when I do love my work, I almost always suffer.

cubism

The public demands to be transported elsewhere by an artwork.

Yet, this art seeks to pin the reader’s or viewer’s mind to the artwork itself.

imagination

One must clearly distinguish between gratuitous dreaming and the fecund imagination that leads to an artwork.

When the imagination is guided by the will, it is no longer a dream, but an employment agency.

gilding

The dream is not solid gold, but only a gilding. The true substance of reality is underneath.

dreaming

Dream is a tunnel passing beneath reality. A sewer filled with clear water, but still a sewer.

pavé posthume

When you have the impression that you have said everything, that’s when you realize that you have never had anything to say.