Philippe Soupault: Poems from Saint Pelagia Prison

Learn more about Philippe Soupault, his life and the Surrealist movement  (click here information and purchase)

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Philippe Soupault (1897- 1990) was a French writer and poet, novelist, critic, and political activist. He was characterized by the Dadaist style and later initiated the Surrealist style with André Breton. Soupault initiated the periodical Littérature together with the writers Breton and Louis Aragon in Paris during 1919, which, for many, dates the beginnings of Surrealism. The first book of automatic writing, Les champs magnétiques (1920), was co-authored by Soupault and Breton. He directed Radio Tunis from 1937 to 1940, when he was arrested by the pro-Vichy regime. He was imprisoned in Vichy, where he was tortured by the Nazis and held for six months before escaping to Algeria, where he set up Radio Algeria.

During World War II, Soupault traveled to the United States, teaching at Swarthmore College but returned subsequently to France in October 1945. His works include such large volumes of poetry as Aquarium (1917) and Rose des vents (1920) and the novel Les Dernières Nuits de Paris (1928; tr. Last Nights of Paris, 1929).

 During 1957, he wrote the libretto for Germaine Tailleferre's Opera "La Petite Sirène", based on Hans Christian Andersen's tale "The Little Mermaid." The work was broadcast by French Radio National during 1959.

 In 1990, the year Soupault died, Serbian rock band Bjesovi recorded their version of his poem Georgia in Serbian.


Source: Wikipedia:

Poems from Saint Pelagia Prison


Wednesday on a barge

and you Saturday like a flag

the days have crowns

like kings and dead men

lissome as a kiss my hand

rests on chained foreheads

A child cries for her doll

and we'll have to start over again

Monday and Tuesday cold-blooded

four Thursdays off from work



a thread unravels

a shadow falls

a butterfly exploded

chrysalis or glow worm



Who mounts

the storm

a balloon

honey or silver moon

Four by four

Let's look for the children

the parents of children

the children of children

the bells of springtime

the beginnings of summer

the regrets of autumn

the silence of winter

an elephant in his bathtub

and the three sleeping children

singular singular tale

tale of the setting sun

[translation by Paulette Schmidt]