A full feature on Todd in the Pittsburgh Tribune

In the new issue of Switched-on Gutenberg Todd has a new poem

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July 4th, 2000 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Robert Desnos.

Two translations of Robert Desnos by Todd in Spring 2000

A feature on The Circle and the Star in Spring 2000

Featured book Frontpage Spring 2000

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The Library Todd's site of French literature, containing the work of over twenty poets. The site was awarded the "Best American Web Site About French Culture" by the French Embassy in 1999.

Visit Online Center for Gidean StudiesTodd's site of research on the great French writer, Andre Gide.

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Email

Todd Sanders
The Libraryand The Online Center For Gidean Studies

Poetry can be this or that. It does not necessarily have to be this or that, except delirious and lucid. Robert Desnos



by Todd Sanders


So, looking back now, I suppose it all began with James Joyce. I had become an ardent admirer of his writing in my early twenties and had worked my way through Portrait of the Artist, Dubliners, Stephen Hero, Ulysses, as well as countless books of criticism, letters, biographies. Somewhere in all of that I discovered some names Simone de Beauvoir, Andre Gide, Paul Valery, Surrealism, Dadaism. In order to understand Joyce better, I began to pick up other books by these authors mentioned in essays and about various movements in France during the years Joyce was there. It was as if I had discovered an answer to a question I did not know I was asking.

Like a stone dropped in a pond and the radiating waves it makes, I leapt from book to book and author to author. Gide to Valery to Blanchot to Desnos and beyond. An ever widening circle that has not, now in twelve years, shown any sign of slowing down.

I find French thought a marvelously pure construct, and French writing, especially the periods from symbolism in the late 1800's on through the modernists and situationist movements, with its Oulipo and noveau roman branches, to be filled with a crystalline beauty.

Early on in my studies of French literature I quickly centered in on Andre Gide, towering figure of French intellect, winner of the Nobel Prize who along with Joyce and Proust, changed the face of modern literature. I remember the first book by Gide that I owned was his essay Corydon which I found in a dusty corner of a bookstore in Cape Cod. I bought it because I found the photo of Gide, he, sitting in the half murky shadow of his apartment on Rue Vaneau, aged, weary, interesting. In the time since buying that first book , I have amassed hundreds of photographs of Gide, one of France's first real media sensations. Gide wearing shorts and sandals talking with Picasso, Gide standing in Red Square next to Stalin at the funeral for Gorky, Gide delighting in his young daughter Catherine. Photographs aside though, what keeps me coming back to Gide is his writing. The Immoralist with tortured Marceline and Michel, striving to become some Nietzsche superman, Urien's Voyage the indolent lascivious voyage to nowhere, Marshlands written very early on in Gide's career, a sublimely amusing book about French salon society.

Gide's journals, kept nearly his entire adult life, are an amazing record of the life of an author. The journals show him at his best, worrying about the widow and daughter of the poet Stephane Mallarme, after he had died (Gide gave money to them for years after Mallarme had died in order that they could keep their apartment), to his worst, a petty, cranky "mandarin", jealous of the influence that Jean Cocteau had over Gide's young friend Marc Allegret.

I will always be thankful to Gide for leading me onwards to other authors and poets I now cherish and will re-read for the rest of my life.

Robert Desnos is one such author.

Desnos is, in my opinion, a stunning writer and poet. I first encountered his poetry in The Random House Book of Twentieth Century French Poetry edited by Paul Auster. "I Have Dreamed of You So Much" is the first poem included in the section on Desnos. Such pain, such beauty, such hope in those lines. "No, Love Is Not Dead" with its brilliant last lines "Just me Robert Desnos . . . who, for loving you/ Doesn't want to be remembered for anything else on this despicable earth." I have learned more about writing poetry from Desnos than anyone these last ten years. Recently, due to a lack of translations of Desnos' writing in English, I have begun translating essays, poetry and articles by Desnos. I published this last May "The Circle And The Star", a collection of eighteen poems written for children. In English, only Desnos' early surrealist poems (1924-1928) and later, more classically structured poems (1940-1944) have been translated and had critical essays written about them. I am currently working in Desnos' middle period (1930-1938), after he broke with the surrealists and was working as a newspaper reporter and advertising copywriter, translating poetry he had written for his wife Youki.

My French studies over the years coincided with the invention of the Internet and the World Wide Web. I began creating web sites, learning HTML code and decided to create a site about modern French literature because there were few resources on the web. Out of modest beginnings, The Library has grown to include over twenty French authors, photogalleries, and an interactive piece based on one of Paul Valery's prose poems "Island of Xiphos". I was honored last year to receive an award from the French Embassy for "Best American Web Site About French Culture". This past year I created a second site: The Online Center For Gidean Studies due to a demand for information on Andre Gide and his writing. The Gide side will be expanded over the rest of this year to include essays and papers from around the world on Gide as well as exhibitions about Gide.

Both sites will continue to grow alongside my studies of French literature. If anyone has any questions or requires any help in researching surrealism, modernism, symbolism or any of the authors I have mentioned above, please feel free to email me at kalin@telerama.com and I will provide any assistance I can.

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http://www.kalin.lm.com/author.html - french lit. research

http://www.andregide.org - online center for gidean studies
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