Symbolist poetry  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Symbolism, as a type and movement in poetry, emphasized non-structured "internalized" poetry that, for lack of better words, describe thoughts and feelings in disconnected ways and places logic, formal structure, and descriptive reality in the back seat. Influences on the Symbolist poets included the dark, introspective romanticism of William Blake and Edgar Allan Poe, as well as the Parnassianism of Théophile Gautier and Charles Leconte de Lisle. Charles Baudelaire is often perceived as the foremost precursor of Symbolist poetry. Symbolist poetry influenced the 20th century "modernist" poets such as Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, as well as the movements of French Surrealism and Imagism.

Paul Verlaine and the poètes maudits

Les Poètes maudits

Of the several attempts at defining the essence of symbolism, perhaps none was more influential than Paul Verlaine's 1884 publication of a series of essays on Tristan Corbière, Arthur Rimbaud, Stéphane Mallarmé, Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, Gérard de Nerval, and "Pauvre Lelian" ("Poor Lelian", an anagram of Paul Verlaine's own name), each of whom Verlaine numbered among the poètes maudits, "accursed poets."

Verlaine argued that in their individual and very different ways, each of these hitherto neglected poets found genius a curse; it isolated them from their contemporaries, and as a result these poets were not at all concerned to avoid hermeticism and idiosyncratic writing styles. They were also portrayed as at odds with society, having tragic lives, and often given to self-destructive tendencies. These traits were not hindrances but consequences of their literary gifts. Verlaine's concept of the poète maudit in turn borrows from Baudelaire, who opened his collection Les fleurs du mal with the poem Bénédiction, which describes a poet whose internal serenity remains undisturbed by the contempt of the people surrounding him.

In this conception of genius and the role of the poet, Verlaine referred indirectly to the aesthetics of Arthur Schopenhauer, the philosopher of pessimism, who maintained that the purpose of art was to provide a temporary refuge from the world of strife of the will.

Birth

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