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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

STAR, by                 Poet's Biography

"Star" by Guillaume Apollinaire presents a poignant meditation on the experience of alienation and longing, crafted in the style of a fragmented narrative. In Cubist fashion, the poem provides various angles on the character of Gaspard, offering a complex, multi-dimensional portrayal of him. Like other works by Apollinaire, "Star" uses the backdrop of a journey to delve into human experiences, this time focusing on a seemingly mundane yet symbolically rich character who is in transit, displaced, and out of his native context.

Gaspard, whose name is "certainly not His real name," is an enigmatic figure whose identity remains elusive. The unsure nature of his name establishes a kind of indistinctness about him, resonating with the larger theme of uncertainty and dislocation in the poem. His departure from the town of "Blue Lanchi" further underscores the idea of displacement. Notably, the children in this town refer to him as "Papa," indicating a paternal role or perhaps a form of local affection. However, even this name is suspect, adding another layer of ambiguity to his identity.

The setting, "at the foot of the calm gulf facing the seven islands," offers a tranquil counterpoint to Gaspard's restless journey. The serenity of the gulf contrasts sharply with his internal state, which is one of longing "for the rice and the tea." This specific yearning, both basic and poignant, symbolizes a broader emotional or existential hunger, the nature of which remains elusive, befitting the Cubist sensibility of offering fractured perspectives.

As Gaspard proceeds on his nocturnal trek, the milky way "often catches his eye." However, in a significant choice, he knows "full well that one must not follow it." The milky way here becomes a metaphor for both guidance and misdirection, a celestial object of beauty and wonder that is simultaneously a dangerous lure. Gaspard's knowledge that "one must not follow it" serves as a broader comment on the existential journey, cautioning against the seduction of illusions and the perils of straying off course.

Like other poems by Apollinaire, "Star" dwells in a space of fragmentation and multiple perspectives, both literal and metaphorical. It seems to question the very possibility of a singular, coherent narrative, echoing the Cubist ethos of presenting multiple facets of a single image or idea. Gaspard's fragmented identity, the complex web of his relationships and longings, and the existential journey he undertakes all serve to enrich the poem's thematic texture, capturing the reader's imagination while resisting easy interpretations.

In summary, "Star" by Guillaume Apollinaire is a rich tapestry of fragmented images, laden with symbolism and rife with existential concern. Like a Cubist painting, it presents a complex subject from multiple angles, inviting the reader to grapple with its intricacies and arrive at a personalized understanding.

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