Robert Desnos

Robert Desnos, 1900-45, was the most exciting and skilful French poet of his time. He first delighted the Surrealists with his spontaneous super-Spoonerisms by ‘Rrose Sélavy’. Of his love-poems, the first included in MPT 3/7 were among those he wrote for the chanteuse Yvonne George. She did not respond and around 1929 he found lifelong love with Youki Foujita (Lucie Badoud). The poems for Yvonne tended to be in free verse; those for Youki were at first childlike, then longer and more formal.

He wrote magnificent poetry during the Occupation, with pseudonyms or literary allusions to beat the censor. Arrested in 1944 as a Resistance man, after a year of slave labour he died at Terezin. For his supposed ‘last poem’, see MPT 3/7. In his real last poem he returned to Rrose Sélavy, but in the sonnet form.

– from Timothy Adès’ introduction in MPT Series 3/7 Love and War