Translator’s Note on Marcel Lecomte’s Work:
Marcel Lecomte (1900-1966) is one of the forgotten fathers of Belgian surrealism. While he would go on to publish several collections of poetry in his lifetime (and two more post-humously), Lecomte is best known as a journalist and critic, writing a large number of essays, art reviews, and political columns and pamphlets throughout his life. Born in Brussels, he was raised during the turbulence of the Great War and, as a student, witnessed the birth of the dada movement launched by Tristan Tzara. By the 1920s, surrealism, and its rejection of traditional modes of thought and forms of art, was reaching its apex. A young Lecomte followed suit publishing a poetry collection entitled Demonstrations in 1922. Two years later, he would attempt to lead a sect of the movement, founding a group named Correspondence with Paul Nougé and Camille Goemans; the group would publish pamphlets critiquing art, literature, and politics. Although he was expelled from the group in 1925, that same year Lecomte would see the publication of his second book of poems, Applications, a work that showcased two drawings from his friend, artist René Magritte. For the remaining forty years of his life, Lecomte would remain productive, dipping into a variety of projects and genres, but largely focusing on essays, which appeared in journals such as Le Rouge et the Noir, Synthèses, Le Journal des Poètes, and Le Journal des Ingénieurs, and writing for his weekly column in La Laterne.
The selection of poems here shows Lecomte’s connection to the surrealists, but they also demonstrate where he diverges from the group and reveal his interests in the metaphysics of the every day and his acute awareness of his physical surroundings. Moreover, they accentuate the poet’s sense of humor, both light and dark, and his play with language and the perception of both reality and the language of it. The flexibility (and sometimes brokenness) of language—and the perceptibility of a particular moment in life itself—is further stressed in Lecomte’s use of line breaks, sometimes odd syntax, and often random punctuation (when it appears at all). The slippery effect of awkwardness and intimacy present here is what makes Lecomte’s poems not only memorable but also resonant, familiar, to his readers.
Marcel Lecomte (author) was a Belgian writer (1900-1966) who was a member of the Belgian surrealist movement. Although he published several collections of poetry including Démonstrations (1922) and Applications (1925), a work that showcased two drawings from his friend, artist René Magritte, Lecomte is best known as a journalist and critic. He wrote widely on art and literature and maintained weekly political columns in Le Rouge et Noir and La Laterne.
K. A. Wisniewski (translator) is editor of The Comedy of Dave Chappelle: Critical Essays. His poetry and translations have appeared in dozens of magazines, most recently in The Chariton Review, Bluestem, The Chiron Review, MAYDAY Magazine, CAIRN, and the Sierra Nevada Review. His critical work has appeared in Genre, Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media, The Maryland Historical Magazine, and the anthology Kidding Around: The Child in Film and Media (2014). He is a PhD Candidate at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and is currently translating Swiss writer Julian Burri’s novella Poupée into English.
He alone is able to tell us about the objects of the Universe,
in such a way to surprise us, to surprise them.
He knows the inner space that stirs them.
(Yes, immersed, engaged in the back-story of the world,
these objects become the secret distance from his gaze to
Usher, to the first row quickly so that I may sit
to watch the clowns boldly play with death
in paleness and in silk
Le maître d’école
Il est seul à pouvoir nous parler des objets de l’Univers,
de manière à nous surprendre, à les surprendre.
Il connaît l’espace interne qui les anime.
(Oui, plongés, engagés dans l’arrière-histoire du monde,
ces objets deviennent la distance secrète de son regard à
Ouvreuse, au premier rang vite que je m’assoie
Pour regarder les clowns jouer avec la mort
Surpassant en audace en pâleur et en soie
Les jockeys, les toreadors.