Pierre Reverdy ( 1889 – 1960) was a French poet whose works were inspired by and subsequently proceeded to influence Surrealism, Dadaism and Cubism.
The spiritual threads that ran through his poetry appealed particularly to the Surrealists. He, though, remained independent of the prevailing “isms,” searching for something beyond their definitions.
Reverdy arrived in Paris in October 1910, devoting his early years there to his writing. He published a small volume of poetry in 1915.
A second compilation of his work brought out in 1924, Les épaves du ciel, brought him greater recognition.
What inspired his work? Love.
One of Reverdy’s most enduring and profound relationships was with the couturier, Coco Chanel. The intense period of their romantic liaison lasted from 1921-1926.
In 1926, in a ritualistic act signifying the renunciation of the material world, he burned many of his manuscripts in front of an assembly of friends. He converted to Catholicism and retreated with his wife, Henriette, to a small house located in proximity to a Benedictine abbey at Solesmes. Solesmes was his home for the next thirty years where he lived a “quasi-monastic life."
During his time in Solesmes, Reverdy wrote several collections including Sources du vent, and Ferraille and Le Chant des morts. During the WWII German occupation of France, Reverdy became a partisan in the resistance movement.
He never forget his love of Coco Chanel. Chanel bolstered his confidence, supported his creative ability and further helped assuage his financial instability by secretly buying his manuscripts through his publisher.
So strong was his tie to her that in 1960, sensing his death was imminent, he wrote a poem to the woman whom he had loved for the past forty years.
Dear Coco, here it is
The best of my hand
And the best of me
I offer it thus to you
With my heart
With my hand
Before heading toward
The dark road’s end
Know you are loved
Reverdy died in 1960 in Solesmes Abbey.
For iPad/iPhone users: tap letter twice to get list of items.