Altagor (Jean Vernier) (1915-1992)


Baobab issue #9 (1979-1980)
  1. Simonia (2:13)
  2. Plectrophone solo (:34)
  3. Métapoésie I (12:50)
  4. Métapoésie II (8:05)
  5. Métapoésie III (4:06)
  6. Métapoésie IV (7:50)
  7. Métapoésie V (8:00)
  8. Métapoésie VI (3:18)
  9. Métapoésie VII (2:05)
  10. from "Discours Absolu" (1947-60) (3:38)


French proto-Lettrist poet Altagor (real name Jean Vernier, 1915-1992) used onomatopeia in his “Métapoésie” writings and an invented language in the “Parole transformelle” visual poetry. Also an instrument builder, he accompanied his poetry readings on the pantophone, a stringed, bowed instrument, and the plectrophone, played with a stick. For an introduction to the sound world of Altagor, please refer to the article and sound file on Continuo-docs.

This cassette is an overview of Altagor’s Métapoésie. The amateurish technical realization is probably the work of Altagor himself. It starts with a short excerpt from Simonia, a poem from the 1950s, supposedly longer than 10,000 verses. Simonia was the chthonian goddess Altagor invented during his frequent walks in Les Eparges forest in North-Eastern France. After a brief Plectrophone solo, Altagor then performs a choice of his Métapoésie poems with Plectrophone accompanyment.

Altagor was the nom de plume of French poet, painter and instrument builder Jean Vernier (1915-1992). In 1948, he created “Métapoésie”, a kind of sound poetry written in an invented language, like the Lettrists or Claude Gauvreau in Québec. His “Parole Transformelle” is a development of Métapoésie and consists in onomatopoeia only.

In 1963, Altagor created 3 stringed instruments inspired by mathematical principles: the Pantophone, played with a bow, and the Métaphone and Plectrophone, played with a stick, like a cymbalum. He would use these instruments during poetry readings and home recording sessions, more rarely as solo instruments. -- Continuo

At the margins of the lettriste movement, Altagor (pseudonym of Jean Vernier) formerly a mechanic and miner, now writer of thrillers, created "Métapoésie poetry composed of invented words, therefore abstract. The text "Discours Absolu" lasts about six hours and was composed between 1947 and 1960. We present a fragment in which it is possible to note the singular mixture of cadences and consonances, even Greek and Celtic, the highly rhetorical diction.