For André Laude (1936-1995), for his poetry, for his fiery beauty …
Toute mon expérience poétique s’articule autour de cette perspective : la poésie doit changer la vie.
André Laude: Working class family. Exiled to Paris, will later rejoin his homeland: Occitanie. School under Nazi occupation. First masturbations and first revolts. Very early writing and dreaming of becoming a journalist. Comes to know a band of anti-conformist poets and painters. Anarchist militant. Self-taught … . Learns with difficulty to make love well. Meets André Breton, Benjamin Péret and a few other “lights”. War of Algeria: horror and suffering. Quits Europe for several years. Journeys: Cuba, the Orient, Asia … Returns to Europe. Writes in a hundred newspapers and magazines. Publishes collections of poetry. Poverty, humiliation. Lets his beard grow to hide the scars. A unique desire: to live and enjoy without limits while aging his flesh.
André Laude, anarchist poet
by André Chenet
He was terrible, he made not a single compromise, he died in misery.
For André Laude, poetry should accompany the “social and human development towards justice and the greatest freedom possible”; it could “create being together”. The man, who described himself as a writer with a rope around his neck, was an opponent to the war in Algeria, imprisoned for a year, tortured by the parachutists; one could then find him in Cuba and then Algeria, under the new regime of Ben Bela. He was an anarchist, a libertarian communist; he swore that he pissed ink and blood.
André Laude never repented of his barely retained visceral violence, he never abandoned himself to bemoaning in public, a public whose silence and cowardice never cease to amaze me, confound me! He continues to clear a path among us, towards the obscure that he illuminates with his own interior light; he clears to reveal the visions that our societies of dupes continue to stifle under sordid layers of appearances, those of a sacrosanct respectability already well compromised – a respectability which the villains and boors of on high revel in, those emblazoned with the epidemic necrosis who have nothing but the grey, the dullness and the lack of imagination of their civilised administrations to oppose to us.
André Laude would pay a very heavy tribute for clearing for himself a path of sweat, blood and revolt in ungrateful lands where poetry’s rights of citizenship are limited to the golden slums of official culture. He would never renounce combating the enemy, this right-minded monster who takes possession of human beings from the inside, which dries their hearts, transforming the instinct of life into terror and chronic inertia. His unpredictable fits of anger would earn him grudges and tenacious hatreds. I remember his restive silhouette in the streets of Paris, in the cold hour of crime, before the daybreak uncovers the horror of a daily slavery and a general headlong rush. A marauder impregnated with the salubrious wine of the imagination, he fashioned his suicide by taking upon himself the burden of the human tragedy. Descended from a very modest family, living in Aulnay-sous-Bois, he was not , though he wrote it on numerous occasions, the son of Olga Katz who died, according to him, in Auschwitz. This mother that he invented for himself …, as he invented for himself a thousand and one other lives so as to travel always further and more freely through the strata of History, symbolised, in the end, this distress and this fundamental despair of an existential disequilibrium between nothing and clarity. André Laude thirsted for justice and peace, the thirst of an immoderate love rendered impossible by the sordid conditions of a white collar economy trampling upon, mercilessly, the wretched of the earth. He lived at the shaprest point of poetry. I remember this savage man just before he succumbed to exhaustion and famine. He would say of himself that in and for everything, he was guilty, adding: “I had the vocation of the innocent”.
Between wanderings, André Laude brought light to books, landscapes, the lands of camaraderie, the eruptions of mad love, and even to his own spirit, until the most naked disillusionment, until death, followed. He would say that he was sick of a world where injustice always struck more violently against the most fragile, the most exposed. André Laude was a lucid rebel, his watchword: refusal. In his work, utopia and lyricism render very naturally concordant the contradictions to which he was the conscious, consenting prey. A man such as he could not have existed except in radical protest against the ambient order of uniformisation. He had an incorruptible faith in the figure of the libertarian anarchist, who in his eyes represented the only possible defiance: the responsibility of each man, of each woman in the heart of their community, an open and generous regard towards others. He condemned with definitive contempt Stalin’s Russia, which in 1936, betrayed the Spanish Revolution, in bringing about or allowing the assassination of thousands of anarchists whose only fatal error was in having shown to the world that workers could manage themselves and do without state executives. Despite that, he never renounced the essential postulates of Marxist economics – he had the greatest interest in theorists, sociologists and philosophers such as Marcuse, Bloch, Debord …
His poetry nourished itself at the youthful sources of surrealism and the martyred revolutions of the 19th (1848, the Commune) and 20th centuries (Bolshevik, Spanish, Cuban, South-American …). Until the end, he remained faithful to his engagements: to change life, to transform the world – such was the motto of this “abiding dreaming” prince whose proud lineage was infused with that of rebel poets the world over. Like André Breton, he searched for “the gold of time” and sublime love. The alchemic words of the poem were this gold that no bargaining would know how to debase, except on pain of forever humiliating itself and poetry. If he distanced himself without a struggle from the surrealist movement, it was that, without any hostility, he was not in agreement with the aestheticism and idealism that animated the group, he, the militant libertarian. He ardently desired that poetry speak the language of every man and woman, that it express directly the daily struggle for fraternity, that she had been savage and barbarian; he wanted words that made love, accompanying “the steps of free men bound to the movement of the stars”.
In May 1968, he participated in the insurrection of the streets, but his heart was no longer there. Before others, he denounced the bourgeois softness of a left that was more lured by the prestige of power than animated by the desire to accomplish the draconian reforms and transformations that imposed themselves, in a first moment, to weaken and short-circuit the hold of a booming capitalism, this free for all where a small number become rich on the backs of those who create the wealth of nations. A clairvoyant observation. And, from 1978, he predicted the criminal rise of religious fundamentalisms. (“One has but to turn one’s eyes to Iran, prey to fanatical and retrograde mullahs, to feel the desire to vomit”). Against the shambles of modern sanitised thought, comprised of “mediatised rationcinations”, he opposed the “innumerable wounds” of his profound night and invented a “voice that runs like a bullet/along the veins until the centre of the animal”.
In leaving us, he did not fail to restitute to us a flamboyant heritage of universal poetry. … Not too long ago, André Laude was frightening. His presence defied the consensuses of the Parisian oyster bars. The great majority of the readers of poetry had never heard of him despite the black blood that he shed on this earth. It would be necessary to point to a few decisive poems, and to pitch them into the public sphere as a declaration of war. “I am still alive”, André Laude insisted in repeating, already in a very poor physical state, in the last years of his life. The certainty however that he would be “popularly” recognised never left him – his last writings to his friends testify to this. He took himself for one of the disinherited, because he could not do otherwise; it was never a question of renouncing his origins as so many upstart litterateurs are wont to do so as to gain the favours of the prince. Despite his many deeply assumed faults, he did not avow himself defeated except with his last breath. Is not neurosis our ballast in an imposed reality? To read André Laude is to part with one’s self without renouncing either the I or the Other. The poem becomes a simple common signature, testimony without useless words. Dead? Living? It would seem very much alive, the writing of a day, today, concerning the advanced state of decomposition of Judaeo-christian civilisation, mixed with the deadly mass of the so-called capitalist New World Order, whose multiple multinational masks evoke an apocalyptic dance on a planetary scale.
There are those who put themselves in a foetus position, believing thereby to escape from the radioactive emanations, there are those who flee running, along the prophetic path of the “man with soles of wind“. Finally, there are those who not taking the prey for a shadow, make themselves smugglers, porters, sentinels. André Laude made himself a relay, a high tension wire, a zealous revolutionary. From dream to reality, he wavered on the thread of the abyss. It was absolutely necessary to put the two currents into relationship with each other if one wished to find ethical responses for a salubrious life, a life that favoured the harmonisation of human communities. André Laude was Jew and Palestinian; André Laude was the whipping boy and scapegoat of the well-to-do; André Laude denounced the criminal hypocrisy of bourgeois norms, the enormity of the injustice accepted by his docile fellow citizens. As a journalist, he took up the defense of pariahs, so-called terrorists, the innocent with severed hands, the weak and the victims “who did not renounce to” making gold with the lead with which they had been wounded. He demanded “light on earth“. He was the principal character of his poems. It must be said in his defense that he did not melt into the mould; he knew the virtues of metaphor, the exuberant provocations of Lautréamont. He knew Carco, Apollinaire, Cendrars, Maïakovski, ikmet, Breton, Desnos, Ritsos, Césaire … He knew the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, upon which he vomited his despair, the despair of an eternally insubmissive man. He also knew Cioran and Adamov.
André Laude was not an ordinary fellow. He broke the codes of convenience at every turn. Scheherazade marveled at her own stories while being disgusted by certain at least strange aspects of her behaviour. André Laude was a fire-eater, his blood was a stellar fire, his heart was a steamship’s boiler on the verge of exploding; a volcano whose dates of eruptions were impossible to predict. His poetry kept as close as possible to his path, a saw-tooth cutting towards the abyss. This angel of darkness, with the mysterious M engraved between his shoulders, let himself plunge into the nevralgic centre of existence where, through the tragic game of contraries and paroxysms, a slim chance of reconciliation subsists. “Make love, not war“, could have been his motto had he not preferred revolution to the rhetorical flourishes of patriotic hymns. But he had few illusions regarding the goals of revolutionary programs, for the good and only reason that the experience of acts of transformation of the world testify to the re-establishment of what is worse after each bloody riot and that ruling powers take root on the side of corruption and bloody takeovers. … Utopias, with very few exceptions, were always thrown into the dustbin of history. He never ceased to bring into light the observation of a disaster in the making with which we must live if we wish to survive and try to love in a provisional equilibrium on the edge of the charnel house of innocents where torture is religiously practised (Work-Family-Fatherland), where happiness is nothing but the excuse of the head of the bureau of propaganda of the incorporated company of hell. Out of his anger, he created a fertile land of fraternity and of adorned peoples. In his convict’s mouth, the honey of words of love destroy all hatreds.
André Laude was a secretive man, scored by regret; he carried his hell in his flesh like the promise of a terrestrial paradise. From the end of the 1970s, I often crossed paths with him in his nocturnal wanderings in the Marais, rue des Rosiers, rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie, rue Nicolas Flamel … . Shoulders hunched, his pockets filled with newspapers, crumpled balls of paper that he would triturate compulsively – like an anguished child – with his thin fingers and poems scribbled in haste; he himself proceeded between murderous glances that tracked his ever step in the Parisian labyrinth that closed in upon him just before he reached the day’s beginning. … I remember a man tormented by an insatiable hunger for a more just world, a man who took upon himself the responsibility for the best and worst, a man crowned by poetry that mourned the fraternal revolution to which he had devoted himself to the point of incandescence, until he consumed himself.
The 24th of June 1995, at the Marché de la Poésie where I had gone with the sole aim of finding him (I had been living in Nice since 1991), the news of his death broke upon me just as I arrived: he had collapsed, in a garret of the rue de Belleville, where he had found temporary refuge. On his work table, his last poem, framed by two birds traced in red ink; a goodbye as distressing as it was final:
Don’t count on me
I will never come back
I lodge already on high
among the elect
next to the cold stars
What I leave has no name
What awaits me also has none
From darkness to darkness I traced
the path of a pilgrim
I move away utterly without voice
A thousand and a thousand times life
broke me, defeated.
I the son of kings.
André Laude will have known, during his fifty nine years on this planet “blue like an orange“, the martyrdom of those who never renounce the mad beauty of love on earth. He died with eyes wide open, writing.
Poetry by André Laude …
Like a wound close to the sun
if I write it is so that my voice reaches you
voice of lime and blood voice of wings and of furies
drop of sun or of shadow in which our feelings palpitate
if I write it is so that my voice wrench you
from the berth of the solitary, from the walls
from the hard labours of hands swimming in the yellow light of despair
if I write it is so that my voice where often torrents of wounds turn
gain root in your living hands, cover bosoms with the freshness of a garden
sweep away in the cities childless shadows
if I write it is so that my voice with a single leap of love
reaches your faces destroyed by the long punishment of bitter fatigue
it is to better strike the enemy who bears numerous names..
I am called no one
I have no name. I am called no one.
The rich have gold,
My poor hands dig the river.
My poor hands dig a furrow of death.
I have buried so many children that my memory
is a wild ink.
I no longer have any hands. I have no longer any age.
I have the wisdom of the great trees broken by the Americans.
I am a Red skin. But never will I march in
a single file [file indienne].
My heart, my sex, my innards pain me.
I pray. I am a Sioux.
I pray. I believe in vengance.
I am he who one cannot kill in the heart of the battle.
I was I am I will be
I was shattered stone, aids-sun,
I was a cadaver under numberless flowers.
I was a walled silence. I was a country cemetery.
I was a bird with broken wings, oil fouled.
I was old, alcohol
speaking endlessly of war in the mountains.
I am a suicide scenario. I contemplate the river.
I see the cadavers of widows pass.
I hate myself and I want to die. I hate myself
and I want to die.
Close your eyes. Dream one last time
of my Greek poet’s profile,
on the most wretched of islands.
I will be from this day on, heaven, heaven and heaven.
Heaven beyond your murderous madness.
I will be heaven. I will be eternal.
Ink and blood
I make of my life every night a pile of rubbish.
I make of my life a dim chronicle.
I make of my life the crossroads of shadows.
I make of my blood a long river
that strikes at my temples.
I make of my fear a black and white bird.
I make of a dead bird, rotten,
the child that I could have been.
I make of a child a mad fire, a block of ashes.
I make of my coming death a feast for serpents.
I make of a serpent the rope for my hanging.
I make of a long, unremitting silence the testament
of everything that was disasters, horrors, troubles,
ruptures and interminable screams.
I piss ink and blood.
I piss ink and blood.
I sing over the pyre of punishments.
The worm in the fruit
I follow the long furrow that leads to the silent dead.
I dream of the snow, of the fiery horses,
of the winter of words.
I see burned woodlands, stranded vessels,
seagulls gripped by the ice.
I follow the river of blood and tears
that passes through unsettling ruins.
I smell the odor of predators, the urine
of the hyena, the fecal matter of young babies.
I write from a core of night.
I write from a trench drowned in mud.
I write with a rope at my neck.
The trap door already trembles beneath my feet.
I follow the cold marble that causes shivers
and sing a very strange and old song,
that says that today and for always
the worm is in the fruit.
In the green hell I built a house
of prayers and clamors.
At night I hear strange sounds.
Are they seraphs,
the dark demons before Columbus.
In the green hell I drag my old carcass.
I play poker. I always have three aces.
I smoke cigars from Cuba
and I drink the liquor of fevers.
I crush fat flies
suckers of blood on my lips.
I built a house of air and hurricane.
I prepared a nuptial bed for the woman of women.
The revolver is there, settled on the table of wild wood.
Under a cold moon I await crime and punishment.
I fix onto my death like a star to the sky.
killed in me a great deal of gold
and children who cried in their mouths.
The time has come
to reset the clocks.
Farewell hour of summer, farewell hour of winter
it is now the hour of white exile and regrets.
Already I sink in earth
Like a good and spirited matador
I sketch a feint.
Of what good is it to defy red cape and black cape.
Poetry is as simple as goodnight
in the middle of a bullring of sand and blood. Decapitated.
We live nowhere we do not break our hands
red of resentment that skeletons of wind
will whirl us in a desert of images diffused by the
invisible engineers of the world of permanent separation
entrenched in the planetary organisms indefatigable
planners of spectacle
we are nothing we are but absence
a burning that does not cease we kiss no true
mouth we speak a language of ashes we touch
an operetta reality
we never have an encounter with ourselves
we fumble still and always
we err in a magma of cold signs we cross
our own phantom flesh
the sun of deceit never sets on the empire of
our nothingness lived atrociously at the crossroads of nerves
we have neither face nor name we have neither the time
nor the space of eyes to cry thirty teeth
completely new to bite
but bite where but bite what
thoroughly all the chains
around which our flesh and thoughts are formed
until they break in a cheer of light of
decreeing the global refusal
gardens of bliss tremble and give light beyond
the revolt is the spark
carve children with eyes of air and water beautiful matches
in the forest of just hungers
carve beautiful matches so that the theatre of universal shadows burns.
Are we alive?
Are we made of steal and blood
Are we made of water and winds
Are we cloned from nothing
where is the fire of our members
My nicotine fingers still move
My rage intact breaks locks
A long illness devours my body
My soul is a monk in a homespun habit
Are we alive. …
More than ever poetry is urgent. Vital like bread and wine. Necessary like rain and sun, the neon and the polar nights. At the hour when the revolutionary dream of October 1917 collapses definitively, at the hour when abject standardisation, uniformisation in the worst mediocrity accelerates, at the hour when despite certain appearances, the “freedom” of the individual – inescapable foundation of every declining civilisation, at the time when politics exhausts itself, when the tyrannical proliferate, when nationalisms, fundamentalisms awaken themselves, when poverty inflames minds as much as stupid and simplistic slogans, poetry is first and foremost, a “miraculous weapon” (Aimé Césaire) for resistance. Total. Irrecoverable. On all fronts.
Resistance against what plunges being itself into mourning, that defiles, mutilates, breaks the ardor of individuals towards the “Field of possibles”, the immense continent of Life that is still unknown, that awaits its Christopher Columbus. Poetry does not reveal established dogmas. It is this tool for man that allows him to measure his non-finitude, his majesty and his moving and inexhaustible mystery. She is the wind that pushes against his back in his step towards the star, the light that wrenches him from the humus and projects him to the heights of stars of lead and fire.
Languages, strange copulations of words, disruptions of syntaxes, desires of dialogue, expressions of the sensible world, burrowings in the shadows, cries of love, humour mostly “dark”, gaining roots in wanderings, the countryside or the “big city”, explosions of despair that open strangely onto some unnameable hope, poetry is also, in its essence, germination, act.
An act which implies that every authentic poet, whether elegiac or subject to subtle metaphysical secrets, is a dissenter, a true outlaw, Hölderlin, Rimbaud, Maïakovski the same struggle! Solitary poets. Poets of solidarity. As far as the revolver, the putrid leg, “pillaged” reason.
Poetry is therefore that which man – even though he does not know it or pretends not to know – needs most to be able to trace before the world the scar of his dignity. Poetry: the permanent vertigo between the moon and the gallows.
Without poetry – free, madly free, the universe would be a dead sphere. Red lipped poetry: the magic potion to heal, perhaps, the electric anxiety of the anonymous person who in a moment of feverishness wrote on the walls of May 1968: “Is there a life before death?”
All the texts above, whether the poetry by André Laude or the extracts of an essay by André Chenet, where translated from the original french. Laude’s poetry can be found at various websites: La revue des ressources, Poésie danger, Esprits nomads. The essay by Chenet was published in Ballast.