In September last year I managed to get to a small exhibition at the Boole Library in University College, Cork. The library, in partnership with the Départment des Manuscrits, Bibliothèque nationale de France, facilitated the exhibition of the work of Claude Pélieu, the only French member of the largely American Beat Generation. Pélieu was a poet and collage artist whose work often owed much to the cut-up techniques espoused by William Burroughs and others.
Pélieu (1934-2002) spent much of his early life in Paris but was conscripted into the French army during the Algerian war in the late 1950s. This experience affected him badly and stayed with him for the rest of his life. He managed to get himself discharged by drinking stagnant water and making himself seriously ill. He met Mary Beach, an artist and translator in her own right, and together they moved to San Francisco. In the ensuing years they travelled extensively, also living in England, before Pélieu died on 24th December 2002 in New York.
Claude Pélieu: On All Frequencies gave a glimpse into a lively and creative mind. His early poetry was lyrical and hugely influenced by Jacques Prévert but by 1962 he had already been experimenting with the use of fragments and collages. This fine show was a welcome insight into a marginalised figure and James Horton, the curator, has done a fine job in highlighting the work of a highly individual writer.
by Claude Pélieu
I plunged a star in the wine
I plunged a seagull in the sun
I plunged a flower in the wind
I plunged my hands in your eyes
You plunged hands in your eyes
You plunged your eyes in the mines
and we have been happy as butter
flies in a bouquet of flowers illuminated
Translated by Matthew Geden