A casual glimpse of Guillaume Apollinaire’s “Windows” is enough to reveal its modernity: The thirty-seven lines are of widely varying lengths and are not divided into stanzas. Still, the title is fairly traditional; windows are an age-old symbol of the human eye, the link between the inner world and the world outside. Similarly, the opening verse is reassuringly musical, with careful rhythms and long vowel sounds in the French; it is, however, also enigmatic.
“From red to green all the yellow dies”—the phrase may allude to colors on a canvas, to the colors of the spectrum, to a sunset, or to something else altogether. In spite of the later reference to “sunset,” the rest of the work does little to clarify this statement; in fact, at line 2, the poem seems to splinter into a bewilderingly random set of fragments, apparently generated by a process of free association.
Sights, sounds, thoughts, comments, events, memories, snatches of conversation, and rare poetic images are presented to the reader without any indication of their function. The impressions simply sit side by side, and it is up to the reader to work out the connections. For example, the primary colors of the first line may suggest the colorful macaws seen singing in the primitive (“native”) forests of the second line; these macaws, perhaps, then generate the “pihis”—mythical one-winged birds—whose “giblets” are presented, without commentary, in the...
(The entire section is 514 words.)