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Illuminations (New Directions Paperbook, No.…

Illuminations (New Directions Paperbook, No. 56)

by Arthur Rimbaud

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The clouds gathered over the open sea which was formed of an eternity of warm tears.

There was obviously a time when Rimbaud was an aspiration, an impoverished goal, one brocaded with the lice with which one can toss upon the clergy. Allah, of course, had other plans. I did read a number of fawning books and I maintained the posture for a while. That is a but a memory. Steeped--perhaps--in patchouli and cigar smoke.

It was thus strange to return to the poet after a few decades. I was encouraged earlier in the week by Edmund Wilson’s dichotomy of the character of Axel and the peripatetic life of Rimbaud. It does give me pause that a teenager wrote these incandescent prose poems. Some border on shrill. Most are transportive and wrought in excess. There appears to be an affinity with Paris Spleen and I am curious to return to Starkie's biography to see Arthur's position on Baudelaire. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
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The prose poems of the great French Symbolist, Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891), have acquired enormous prestige among readers everywhere and have been a revolutionary influence on poetry in the twentieth century. They are offered here both in their original texts and in superb English translations by Louise Varèse. Mrs. Varèse first published her versions of Rimbaud's Illuminations in 1946. Since then she has revised her work and has included two poems which in the interim have been reclassified as part of Illuminations. This edition also contains two other series of prose poems, which include two poems only recently discovered in France, together with an introduction in which Miss Varèse discusses the complicated ins and outs of Rimbaldien scholarship and the special qualities of Rimbaud's writing. Rimbaud was indeed the most astonishing of French geniuses. Fired in childhood with an ambition to write, he gave up poetry before he was twenty-one. Yet he had already produced some of the finest examples of French verse. He is best known for A Season in Hell, but his other prose poems are no less remarkable. While he was working on them he spoke of his interest in hallucinations--"des vertiges, des silences, des nuits." These perceptions were caught by the poet in a beam of pellucid, and strangely active language which still lights up--now here, now there--unexplored aspects of experience and thought.… (more)

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