Go, Rimbaud!
November 7, 2010 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Arthur Rimbaud Documentary [via pb] is an impressionistic tour of Rimbaud's life, from a provincial upbringing, through his teenage poetic revolution, to his world travels and moderately successful business career in the Horn of Africa, featuring contemporary photographs, some taken by Rimbaud, and readings by Joan Baez. His poems (English translations, French, with some translated into English, earlier translations, with French originals) were fundamental in overthrowing the established traditions of writing and his personal story has long been an inspiration to those who chafe under the strictures of society. Ruth Franklin wrote about the whole arc of Rimbaud's life in The New Yorker, while Edmund White focuses on Rimbaud's bull-in-a-china-shop entrance into fellow poet Paul Verlaine's bourgeois existence in The Guardian. You can also read earlier biographical writings on Rimbaud, including his sister Isabelle's hagiographic account. Rimbaud's poetry has been set to music, perhaps most notably by electronic musician Hector Zazou and chansonnier Léo Ferré (links to music below the cut).

Hector Zazou
I'll Strangle You (feat. Gerard Depardieu)
First Evening (feat. John Cale and David Sylvian)
Ophélie (feat. Dominique Dalcan)
Youth (feat. Dead Can Dance)
Hunger (feat. John Cale)
Sahara Blue (Brussels) (feat. Barbara Gogan of The Passions)
Amdyaz (feat. Khalèd)
Lettre au directeur des messageries maritimes (feat. David Sylvian and Richard Bohringer)

Leo Férré
Les poètes de sept ans
Chanson de la plus haute tour
Les assis
Le buffet
Le bateau ivre
Les corbeaux
Rêvé pour l'hiver
Les chercheuses de poux
Ma bohême
posted by Kattullus (13 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Didn't he run off and join Eddie & the Cruisers?
posted by jonmc at 9:32 AM on November 7, 2010

No man, that was just some guy from Jersey.
posted by Kattullus at 9:35 AM on November 7, 2010

Michel Guyader, a French folkie and singer of sea shanties (his occasional free singalongs at Le Colibri in Montmarte are an awesome way to spend an evening), released a less folky CD of songs about Rimbaud's life in 2008. You can preview it here, although it's nearly impossible to buy unless you order directly from him.
posted by bassomatic at 10:16 AM on November 7, 2010

As usual, incredible post Kattullus. Wow, thanks for this beauty.

Anecdote: Only time I read Rimbeaud. Just turned 17, I found and kept a battered, coverless copy of Rimbeaud's Les Fleurs du Mal on the floor of a barn, in the hills outside the city of Florence, in December, 1970. I'd heard of him but hadn't read his work.

On arriving in Venice a week or so later, I met a handsome, young and likable French Merchant Marine in the Piazza San Marco. He wasn't allowed into my hotel room by the staff of the place. Somehow he got to the roof and found a way to my room, which was a bit shocking and flattering. We spent the next several days in bed together, with him reading those poems to me. I thought Rimbeaud would have liked that.
posted by nickyskye at 10:19 AM on November 7, 2010 [4 favorites]

Harlequins (they have principles)

She used to say, airily and deeply unreal,
‘I love you for what you are!’ Oh my, turn the page!
Like art, ah yes! Calm, now – oh illusory wage
Of the capitalistic Ideal!

She’d whisper, ‘I am waiting and wretched, oh dear...’
And with lunar candour she would regard the scene.
Oh my, it was not, dare I say, just for a bean
We attended our classes down here?

But one fine evening, ill-starred and aptly on time
She passes away! – oh my, a theme-change, absurd:
We know that you are to be reborn on the third
Day, and if not in person I’m
Sure in the fragrance of the year’s most verdurous pools!
and you will go on attracting dupes to the flirt
Of La Gioconda, Salammbô’s veil, to the Skirt!

I may even be one of those fools.


(translated by Alan Marshfield)

(re-arranged by me)
posted by clavdivs at 10:44 AM on November 7, 2010

Great post, thank you!

My introduction to Rimbaud was in a Harry Potter slash fanfic (yes, I know), where "Sentences" (Fr. "Phrases") from Les Illuminations was used as an epigraph. The excerpt was this:
Quand le monde sera réduit en un seul bois noir pour nos quatre yeux étonnés—en une plage pour deux enfants fidèles—en une maison musicale pour notre claire sympathie—je vous trouverai.

When the world is reduced to a single black wood for our four astounded eyes—to a beach for two faithful children—to a musical house for our clear understanding—I will find you.
To my lost and lovelorn teenage self, the quote always seemed so mysterious and deep: why has the world been reduced to a single piece of wood? Who are the children and why are they faithful? Who are 'you?' Why are you looking for 'me?' It is as though 'we' are at the end of the world—on the black wood, or the beach or the house—but to us, it is paradise.

The phrase, "our clear understanding," stuck with me for years, as though the poet was promising that I will, one day, see with clarity not only the meaning of the poem, but of life and love in general. Eventually, I lost the quote and could not find it again because I had mixed up Rimbaud with Baudelaire somehow. In fact, just a few weeks ago, I was thinking about posting an Ask MeFi question exactly on this.

Anyway, it's great to find it again, at last, among Katullus's links. I see now that it is actually a selection from a longer piece, but I can't say that I like the rest of it nearly as much. Oh well.
posted by tickingclock at 10:56 AM on November 7, 2010

Timely. I've just been asked on a documentary trip retracing his journey through Africa, and I've been reading Charles Nicholl's excellent book in preparation. Thanks for this.
posted by mykescipark at 10:56 AM on November 7, 2010

nickyskye - Fleurs Du Mal was Baudelaire - but both he and Rimbaud would still have appreciated your story, mon semblable.

mykescipark - better his African trip than St. Ex's. Or Camus. But that sounds amazing!
posted by maryr at 11:38 AM on November 7, 2010

nickyskye, what a lovely memory to hold. And yes, both poets would have appreciated it.
posted by jokeefe at 12:58 PM on November 7, 2010

Rimbaud's life has always fascinated me more than his poetry. From enfant terrible/wunderkind to arms dealer. So cool.
posted by corey le fou at 1:00 PM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd always lazily assumed John Rambo got his name from Patti Smith's lines, "Go, Rimbaud/Go, Johnny, go," but having just looked it up, it seems First Blood (the book) predates Horses by three years. Turns out Rambo's named after an apple. An apple!

Also, I can't believe such a comprehensive post about Arthur Rimbaud fails to mention the biopic Total Eclipse, starring Leonardo DiCaprio's bum.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:05 PM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Situations have ended sad
Relationships have all been bad
Mine have been like Verlaine's and Rimbaud's

But there's no way I can compare
All them scenes to this affair
You're gonna make me lonesome when you go
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:31 PM on November 7, 2010

You shouldn't talk to me
Find better company
There's better people to know
You'll only end up like Rimbaud
Get shot by Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine! Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine! Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine! Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine, Verlaine...

—Verlaines, 1983
posted by Sys Rq at 9:05 PM on November 7, 2010

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