Eating Poetry* (IV)


from Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of Little Jehanne of France

by Blaise Cendrar

But I was a very bad poet.
I didn’t know how to go to all the way to the end.
I was hungry
And all the days and all the women in the cafés and all the glasses
I would have liked to drink and to break them
And all the shop windows and all the streets
And all the homes and all the lives
And all the wheels of the hackney cabs turning in a whirlwind on the bad cobblestones
I would have wanted to thrust them into a furnace of swords
And I would have wanted to crush all the bones
And to tear out all the tongues
And to liquefy all the big bodies strange and naked under the clothing that drives me to madness…
I sensed the coming of the great red Christ of the Russian revolution…
And the sun was a bad wound
That split open like a burnt up inferno.

I was in my adolescence at the time
I was scarcely sixteen and already I didn’t remember my birth
I was in Moscow, where I wanted to feed on flames
And they weren’t enough for me the towers and the railroad stations that studded my eyes like constellations
In Siberia the cannon roared, it was war
Hunger cold plague cholera
And the muddy waters of Love pulled along millions of carrion
In all the railroad stations I saw departing all the last trains
No one could leave any more for the tickets were no longer sold
And the soldiers who were going away would have very much liked to stay…
An old monk sang to me the legend of Novgorod.

Amedeo Modigliani. Portrait of Blaise Cendrars. 1918


*Ink runs from the corners of my mouth
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.
~Mark Strand, “Eating Poetry,” Reasons for Moving, 1968

2 thoughts on “Eating Poetry* (IV)

  1. For those interested in this poet film producer and director (in Mexico,) and world traveller at the age of fifteen, who was ‘grand ami’ of everyone in Paris during and between the wars, from Picasso to Apollinaire to Henry Miller etc., etc., this year marks the bi-centennary of his death celebrated with conferences: 3rd February at Club 44, La Chaux-de-Fonds hosts :Conference de Claude Leroy” on Cendrars, and 4-6th May in Lausanne, the Iniversite de Lausanne in collaboration with the University of West Paris Nanterre, hosts “Cendrars Today” a conference on the status of Cendrars as literateur and poet. His value as formal innovator is there to be re-appraised for undoubtedly he has been overlooked in terms of the many subversions and conversions of genre he constructed with his richly catholic oeuvre.

    1. Jake, thank you for your comment and the information you provide. I have the same regard for Cendrars, and you inspire me to post on him again in the very near future to recognize that fiftieth anniversary of his death you note. Unfortunately, though, while I was able to find links to the Club 44 event, I could find nothing on Lausanne conference.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *