Pierre Reverdy (September 13, 1889 – June 17, 1960) was a French poet whose works were inspired by and subsequently proceeded to influence the provocative art movements of the day, Surrealism, Dadaism and Cubism. The loneliness and spiritual apprehension that ran through his poetry appealed to the Surrealist credo. He, though, remained independent of the prevailing “isms,” searching for something beyond their definitions.
The son of a winegrower, Reverdy was born in southern France, in the region of Narbonne, and grew up near the Montagne Noire. His father home schooled him, teaching him to read and write. He arrived in Paris in October 1910, devoting his early years there to his writing. It was in Paris, at the artistic enclave centered around the Bateau-Lavoir in Montmartre that he met Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, Louis Aragon, André Breton, Philippe Soupault and Tristan Tzara. In 1917, together with Max Jacob, Vicente Huidobro and Guillaume Apollinaire, Reverdy founded the influential journal Nord-Sud ("North-South") which contained many Dadaist and Surrealist contributions. It continued until 1918.
One of Reverdy’s most enduring and profound relationships was with the couturier, Coco Chanel. The intense period of their romantic liaison lasted from 1921-1926. Yet after the fire of this initial involvement cooled, they still maintained a deep bond, and great friendship, which would continue for some forty years. By nature, Reverdy was a somber man, whose strong spiritual inclinations led him over time to distance himself from the frenetic world of bohemian Paris. In 1926, in a ritualistic act signifying the renunciation of the material world, he burned many of his manuscripts in front of an assembly of friends. He converted to Catholicism and retreated with his wife, Henriette, to a small house located in proximity to a Benedictine abbey at Solesmes. Excluding intermittent periods when he visited Paris, Solesmes was his home for the next thirty years. During this time he wrote several collections including Sources du vent, Ferraille and Le Chant des morts. Besides Reverdy published two volumes containing critical matter (reflections on literature mingled with aphorisms) entitled En vrac and Le livre de mon bord.