A Reflection on Rimbaud

This year as a writer, I’ve been experimenting more with my own poetry — not only in terms of structure (although that’s an aspect that has drastically changed as well), but in terms of the poem’s essence — dreamy, symbolic, dark. Arthur Rimbaud is a poet I unintentionally stumbled across after a friend of mine mentioned a line in Tale (Conte)  — quel saccage du jardin de la beauté! which she translated, what a havoc in the garden of beauty!

I think “havoc in the garden of beauty” represents a lot of Rimbaud’s works I admire — poetry so beautifully written, yet about such morbid themes. To expand, Tale in itself is  already dark, telling the story of a prince’s twisted philosophy. Right away, the beginning talks of grotesque ideas, specifically Every woman who had known him was assassinated. This continues, while details get gorier with He amused himself cutting the throats of rare creatures. He set palaces on fire. He rushed on people and slashed them to pieces. Despite this, the piece travels back to a serene language very smoothly with The masses, the golden roofs, the beautiful beasts still existed (all translated by A.S. Kline). It feels real, even to tell a story about a prince setting palaces on fire. I think a lot of this has to do with the directness of the speaker, especially He killed all who followed him, after the hunt or the drinking bout. – All followed him. Rimbaud definitely has a convincing effect by stating this as a direct fact rather than being vague. I’d been wanting to write more about the macabre in general, and Rimbaud is an artist who modeled my aspiration of it perfectly.

What amazes me is that Rimbaud was only age 16 when he wrote The Drunken Boat, which soon came to be one of the most remembered and applauded poems in poetry. He wrote such raw and genuine pieces so beautifully, which is something I aspire to do (not to mention the influence he had on the Surrealist movement). His poetry has definitely had an influence on my own writing, especially in terms of language. The symbolism in The Drunken Boat is so well written, it feels heavenly. Every line has meaning, from I know the skies bursting with lightning, and the waterspouts / And the surf and the currents; I know the evening leading up to But, in truth, I have wept too much! Dawns are heartbreaking. Every moon is atrocious and every sun bitter. […] If I want a water of Europe, it is the black / Cold puddle where in the sweet-smelling twilight (translated by Wallace Fowlie).  I can feel Rimbaud amid the Commune in Paris. I can feel the agony after Illuminations, and why he never wrote another word in the years that followed.

Luca Favis, Poetry Editor

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