Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Apart from his verse and prose poetry, Henri Michaux has written travelogues, essays, drama, and fiction. He is, however, equally well known as a painter. Often merging forms and genres, Michaux’s works traverse the boundaries of real and imaginary worlds, moving from outer to inner space with a constant focus on visual impressions while analyzing the experience. Michaux’s writing cannot be divorced from the visual arts, and several of his foremost collections are combinations of original drawings (gouaches, water-colors, inks, acrylics) and texts. The poems are not merely accompanied by illustrations; rather, the two are simultaneous expressions of analogous themes.

Michaux also wrote a one-act play, Le Drame des constructeurs (pb. 1930, pr. 1937; the builder’s drama), which again reflects his interest in the visual arts. The setting is a lunatic asylum where various inmates, named A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H, play “construction” games. Their guards can be seen in the background; every time one appears, the “builders” disperse. Law and order, Michaux implies, destroy imagination and deprive man of his ability to exist. Furthermore, the character “God” is aligned with the lunatics, whom he absolves and liberates. Ironically, the inmates continue their imaginary building, the guards remain, and nothing changes.

Yet another literary form that Michaux expertly handles is the aphorism. In Tranches de savoir...

(The entire section is 447 words.)