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Tristan Corbière

Tristan Corbière

French poet

Tristan Corbière (18 July 1845 – 1 March 1875), born Édouard-Joachim Corbière, was a French poet born in Coat-Congar, Ploujean (now part of Morlaix) in Brittany, where he lived most of his life before dying of tuberculosis at the age of 29.

Family and schooling

His mother Marie-Angélique-Aspasie Puyo, 19 years old at the time of his birth, belonged to one of the most prominent families of the local bourgeoisie. His father was Antoine-Édouard Corbière, known for his best-selling novel Le Négrier. A cousin, Constant Puyo, was a well-known Pictorialist photographer.

uring his schooling at the Imperial Lycée of Saint-Brieuc where he studied from 1858 until 1860, he fell prey to a deep depression, and, over several freezing winters, contracted the severe rheumatism which was to disfigure him severely. He blamed his parents for having placed him there, far from his family's care and affection. Difficulties in adapting to the harsh discipline of the college's noble débris (distinguished relics, i.e., teachers) gradually developed those characteristics of anarchic disdain and sarcasm which were to give much of his verse its distinctive voice.

Poetry

Corbière's only published verse in his lifetime appeared in Les amours jaunes, 1873, a volume that went almost unnoticed until Paul Verlaine included him in his gallery of poètes maudits (accursed poets). Thereafter Verlaine's recommendation was enough to establish him as one of the masters acknowledged by the Symbolists, and he was subsequently rediscovered and treated as a predecessor by the surrealists.

Close-packed, linked to the ocean and his Breton roots, and tinged with disdain for Romantic sentimentalism, his work is also characterised by its idiomatic play and exceptional modernity. He was praised by both Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot (whose work he had a great influence on).

Eliot used his self-description as "Mélange adultère de tout" as the title for one of his own (French) poems. Many subsequent modernist poets have also studied him, and he has often been translated into English.

His complete poems appear in two volumes with translations by the English poet Christopher Pilling.

Timeline

July 18, 1845
Tristan Corbière was born in Morlaix.

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