Blaise Cendrars

I was reading an old interview (late 50’s?) with Blaise Cendrars in the Paris Review this morning.  I found this quote quite alluring:

“That’s why I am a poet, probably because I am very sensitive to the language–correct or incorrect.  I wink at that.  I ignore and despise grammar which is at the point of death, but I am a great reader of dictionaries and if my spelling is none too sure it’s because I am too attentive to the pronunciation, this idiosyncrasy of the living language.  In the beginning was not the word, but the phrase, a modulation.  Listen to the songs of the birds!”

Cendrars often made a list of all the words he wanted to use  in a book before he used them.  He was a voracious reader and had a wide dock he set out from.  He lugged around the dictionary of Customs Administration in order to find a way to write about Mary Magdalene, “the only woman who made Christ weep.”

The varied context of a word and its form of distribution intrigued Cendrars, fully, and he was hit by the multiple definitions of a word, thus he was allowed a lightness in the density of his work.


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