Guillaume Apollinaire: Poetry in a Time of Dislocation

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Guillaume Apollinaire: Poetry in a Time of Dislocation

In this time of pandemic and great social and economic dislocation and pain, the place or art is critical. Art can soothe us but, more importantly, it can remind us that the love of ideas and beauty and the persistence of a humane spirit still matter. In fact, they may save us.

This month, I have been reading some of the great French poets and I propose to share them with you. In this series, I will choose one poem from each of my favorite poets and translate it for you. These poems will be illustrated with some of my fine art photography. I hope they bring you peace and joy.

In the first installment, I offered a poem by Charles Baudelaire. Now let’s take a look at Guillaume Apollinaire (1880- 1918). “Il Pleut” is a caligramme, a form of poetry devised by Guillaume Apollinaire in which the typography reifies his words. In “Il Pleut” — “It Rains” — the lines are arranged like streams of rain cascading down the page. The form deepens the mood of melancholy, loss and, eventually, of cleansing release that the poem evokes.

Photo: Fern Nesson

“Il Pleut”

Il pleut des voix de femmes comme si elles étaient mortes même dans le souvenir
c’est vous aussi qu’il pleut, merveilleuses rencontres de ma vie. ô gouttelettes !
et ces nuages cabrés se prennent à hennir tout un univers de villes auriculaires
écoute s’il pleut tandis que le regret et le dédain pleurent une ancienne musique
écoute tomber les liens qui te retiennent en haut et en bas.

My Translation

It rains, like the voices of women who are dead even in memory it rains as well like the lost marvelous encounters of my life

oh droplets!

the clouds rear and whinny a whole universe of city sounds
listen to the rain while regret and disdain weep an ancient music
listen to the breaking of the chains that bind you from above and below.

Photo: Fern Nesson

Photo: Fern Nesson

Photo: Fern Nesson

Photo: Fern Nesson

Photo: Fern Nesson

Lead photo credit : Photo: Fern Nesson

More in French poetry, Guillaume Apollinaire, poetry

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Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fern Nesson is a fine art photographer with an MFA in photography. She visits Paris regularly where she captures interior scenes. Her work is abstract, and brings fresh perspective to lovers of Paris, while also illuminating interesting museum exhibitions and cultural events taking place in the City of Light. She recently published a book compilation of the popular Bonjour Paris series "50 Things I Miss About Paris." Purchase this beautiful, photography-filled book on Amazon or contact Fern directly by email: fernlnesson [at] She's offering a special deal for Bonjour Paris readers: purchase the book at cost, a $25 discount.


  • Susan Teare
    2020-06-27 12:25:16
    Susan Teare
    This is so beautiful! Can't wait for the next one.