Sometimes I wish I were educated. Sometimes I wish I could say I wish I was educated without being aware of the misuse of the subjunctive. The problem is that like most people I’m semi-educated, or probably octo-educated. Being a spiller of words, the whole master plan is to sound like I know what I’m gabbling about. And that brings me to the subject of French Symbolist Poetry, the works of Stéphane Mallarmé, the painter Manet and the composer Claude Debussy. These titans of the Arts are unified by many things and now another chain of artistic unity binds them even closer together. Yes – I know absolutely nothing about them.
I stumbled across these gentlemen whilst researching the matter of poetry and its links with music. Thanks to Wikipedia, any old bash-along blogger can appear erudite and pulsating with nodes of knowledge. Les poèms de Mallarmé were deeply inspirational to other artists and also had sonic properties so that the words could mean many different things, particularly when read aloud. The composer Debussy wrote his tone poem “Prélude à l’après midi d’un faune” probably thinking it was about a baby deer wandering about after lunch. To the artist such as myself, the sonic interpretation of the poem is a guy waking up and thinking about decorating his living room with a kind of beige emulsion paint if his missus goes up the bingo later on. Manet gets in on the show by having painted the poet. Do not tell me that you cannot see the hints and reflections of fawn in the flesh tones and the vibrant brush strokes. To the modern Frenchman the word faune could sound like phone and so a unity between Fauvism and Futurism is established. Since the phone did not exist when the poem was written, the sonic symbolism predicted its invention and arrival – almost certainly after a long Gallic lunch. The iPhone is a first person narrative poem by Bambi in rap-speak.
I know I should not mock because a few days ago I did the audio book for my collection of poems “I Threw A Stone”. A chance reading of a guide to an exhibition of Degas revealed the link between Debussy and Mallarmé. At once I realised that I could walk in the footsteps of giants. I put on my poet’s overalls and an arty expression. I have the fortune to know a very talented young composer and asked her to write and play a small piece to reflect the title poem. The result was beautiful and I rather fear that people will prefer the music to the sound of my voice. I know that’s how I feel about it.
I first came across the notion of post-wotsit intellectualism when I went to an art exhibition by the post-impressionists thinking it was a P.R. initiative by the Royal Mail. This led me to read about being a post-modernist. Seemingly the post modernists came after the futurists who are actually quite ancient, having been around before the modernists. My contribution to the catalogue of intellectual post-isms is the term Post-Boomerism. I define it as a state of realisation that the architects of free love and youth culture will one day soonish suffer the droop, dangle a while and die. The software we wrote had that final glitch. It wouldn’t happen these days.