hit college at just the right time to have all my poetry-reading chums lionize the slave-trading Arthur Rimbaud and pooh pooh my misgivings with metropolitan condescension. At no point did I suggest that they, my chums, disavow the cocksucking adolescent Nietzsche-lite work of that tragic asshole Arthur, I merely wanted it known that I could not be counted on to cheerlead their faddy obsession. Likewise considering the case of that racist old trash-emitting typist Ray Carver, equally-embraced, by my college buddies, at the time: fine, if that tripe gets you off. But if I’m going to nibble at and swallow bits of the rank husk of an Artiste’s biographical horrors, I prefer to do it with real geniuses, like Flannery O’Connor. That racist old Papist pie-faced Cracker Bitch could fucking write. I’ll nibble at the husk of her biographical horrors like a sacrament in order to get to the good stuff it wraps.
The preceding paragraph was a crispy paragraph. All of my college chums grew up to be quite moist.
Also: what is it with people who can’t be entirely happy in and with whatever it is they like unless others like it, too? I’m thinking primarily of Scientologists and my long-lost college chums and Fascists everywhere.
I’m veering off piste already. I meant to bring closure to the irony-tormented soul of Arthur Rimbaud with this lit crit prose poem essay.
Arthur, can you hear me? If so, please keep your distance!
A retired judge once lived upstairs. He made his melodramatically self-revealing medical diatribes sound exactly like Hitler’s tantrumy balcony-bleats about The Jews. His treacherously mutinous organs were The Jews. His liver and kidneys were Bolsheviks. The retired judge got that explosively-raging-but-whiny tone so right that it sounded like a snarky college radio parody from the 1970s, only based off real German instead of comedically pseudo-Teutonic glossolalia. We’ve all parodied German at some point, haven’t we?
There’s a picture of Rimbaud, in his Wiki article, a Selfie taken in 1883, in Ethiopia, to where he ran away in an attempt to elude or burn off everything about his younger self he found repulsive and unbearable to remember. He looks like Christian Bale in the photo, arms crossed in pale fatigues or Devil’s Island prison garb. The same self-flagellating commitment to some extreme private not-poetry-related ideal. His posture looks like Christian Bale in character in a role in which the character attempts to convince the world that he pulled it off, he got away with it, but you, in the audience, know he didn’t. The blatant attempt at re-branding didn’t work, Arthur.
My theory being that one’s so-called “Soul” is nothing more than one’s self-image.
The retired judge upstairs used to bleat and whine and Gottverdammt! his crippled old ass off and I’d be rolling on the floor in my office. His agony was hilarious. I would’ve described his performances as “something right out of The Firesign Theater” only one of the two surviving members of The Firesign Theater is in one of my Social Media sand-traps with me and I am disillusioned. I remember the encomia-laced message I introduced myself with and his gracious acceptance of my “friend” request. This was shortly before the Crypto-Fascist House Arrest of the Western World (2020-2023), a test of sanity and courage during which many revealed their Souls (and the scrawniness thereof, perhaps) for the first time. I once naively thought of The Firesign Theater as subversive. I know now, by this guy’s piously gullible response to The Crisis and by reading this guy’s insufferable Olde Hollywoody posts, and seeing his endless collection of pictures of himself, that they were little better than court jesters. Innocuous clowns under LBJ and Nixon, mostly. Their urbane surrealism didn’t leave even a dent or a puncture-mark in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade’s Uncle Sam balloon and was never intended to. It was just college-educated, petit bourgeois, show business yuk-yuks. Cheez Whiz on Crackers and Circuses. I was wince-inducingly naive as a college kid. But not so naive that I fell for (
fill in with lists of things I never fell for).
Anyway the retired judge was hauled away, one morning, to wherever they dispose of not-quite-dead retired judges, in this town, and fuck the luck he was replaced by Serbian refugees with a retarded child. The mother of the poor retarded kid is ugly as a short, mean, shiny-beige Toucan with long black roots and bleached hair. I wouldn’t fuck her with Rimbaud’s mummified ass-honed dick. Her only two facial expressions (a sky-high Gothic arch of a forehead means that there’s a lot of face to express) are FAKE SMILE and GLARE. I want to take her short, wide, moon-faced husband aside, an arm around his Charmin-esque shoulders, and ask him how he stayed erect for long enough to squirt faulty semen in that person. How?
Come on, I want to tell him: NObody is THAT desperate.
Which is untrue. The third-most common element, in the measurable Universe, after Hydrogen and Stupidity, is Desperation. Faulty Semen coming in a distant Fourth. Think about it: everything but perfectly-good semen is faulty semen. Including asteroids, feather dusters, my Wife’s fantastic tits and Karl Marx. Faulty semen, gamy egg: whatever. The kid is retarded.
He makes one noise, expressed as one note, all day long: an “oooohhhh” that sounds like a distant choo-choo train just idling in place, puffing parchment-colored billows of steam in a faded daguerreotype of the French countryside.
Rimbaud is on that choo choo feeling impatient.
Why isn’t it moving? His luggage is stacked here and there on the splintered wooden water-stained floorboards of the musty coach and it is blissfully free of poetry, his luggage. His poems were hissing cockroaches reeking of semen and rectum and he fumigated them into non-existence (or so he feels). He was a crummy poet anyway and he always knew it. He let Verlaine blow smoke (and other things) up his ass for far too long. He blames boredom, youth, horniness, drugs, intermittent depression and sheer stupidity: where would a provincial boy, with few prospects, find a willing woman who wasn’t a whore (he couldn’t afford) anyway?
There’s a sparrow trapped in the coach. Arthur identifies with the sparrow and considers swinging a heavily-weathered leather bag, with a savage grunt, with his skinny arms, to smash it out of its misery. He will never get the taste of Verlaine’s pungent cock out of his mouth or the smell of too-close-ass (often his own) out of his nostrils. He can’t help himself and gives in to the habitual compulsion to compose, and polish, a little ditty, in his head, as he waits for the accursed (odors-infested) train to start moving again:
if one could, by the Heavens’ mercantile grace
replace this worn mouth and anus with brand
new sparkling versions of each, clean
as Le Bon Marché-bought pots, i believe
this train might legitimately claim
to take me somewhere
(Well, it rhymed in the original colloquial 19th century French I imagined as I wrote it)
once lived under a mild-mannered young German ginger who was taking Flamenco-dancing lessons, from a vintage LP, in the evenings, and sometimes I would hear the record skip but he would keep dancing, pounding the kitchen floor over mine with his heels. We often greeted one another, with a salute, in the stairwell. That was many years ago. He once saw me walking a 19-year-old Persian girl up the stairs to the apartment, under his, I shared with my neurasthenic first wife, shortly after midnight (neurasthenic first wife was on the graveyard shift at the ER) and he raised an eyebrow appreciatively. I should have stopped in our progress up the stairs (my Persian girl was wearing my winter cap) and declared, with a grand gesture:
“I know what you’re thinking. But although I’ve written quite a few poems as good as anything scribbled by Verlaine, my fetching friend here is no Rimbaud, I assure you! All of our intercourse is strictly by the book, and whatever it is she does, she was not enticed to do so by promises of entering the pantheon!”
Even earlier in the History of the World, I lived in a house with a cupola (called The Cupola House) that had been divided into apartments, housing students from the Art College across the pedestrian bridge crossing the highway. In The Cupola House I lived next door to a very tall young man of about 20 with a name I remember thinking sounded Amish (Morton? Matthew? Meldrick?) at the time. He had dark hair and a thoughtful peasant kind of face. He had a blonde girlfriend of normal height and I often heard them fucking at night. The walls were thin as dry wall, which is what they were. He often heard me fucking my blonde girlfriend, too, though my normal-height girlfriend and I only tended to make any noise at all at the very end of the sexual-object assembly-process.
Every weekend his phone would ring “off the hook”. His room was only a box, like mine, of roughly 12 feet by 12 feet in size. The phone would ring and ring (I counted over 100 rings once) and then stop for a few hours and ring again, at certain intervals, throughout every weekend. Finally, I asked him where he went to, every weekend, and he answered, looking puzzled, “Nowhere”.
I once picked up the phone to call my Wife, years before she was my Wife, and she was already on the phone with me.
I first heard of Rimbaud in High School.
Can any of us be properly understood, and judged, before we’re long dead (though not so long after that certain contextual clues, of popular culture, of specific locales, are lost)?
Is a “proper understanding” ever really attempted? Regarding anything?
“At the age of nineteen Arthur Rimbaud committed suicide, not in the flesh but as a writer. At that point he had composed a body of poetry now ranked among the classics of France and of the world. He never wrote another line. He cut himself not only from literature but from his native country and from European civilization, and lost himself in the inaccessible mountains of North Africa.”-–Book Blurb
A little more than three score and ten years after Rimbaud bit the biological deathcock in Marseille, poor, homely, marginally-clever-yet-average male college students were fucking beautiful co-eds with a freedom and leisure and copiousness with which average Human males had never fucked in Human history: not dominated by harem-hoarding tribal chieftains, nor confounded by Sex Negative Religions, nor frustrated by social conventions dictated by the capitalist logic of Pussy as a jealously-guarded commodity. Do you think, in such conditions, Jean Nicholas Arthur Rimbaud would have let that ugly bastard Verlaine play with his parts under the shoddy guise of Poetic Practise? Verlaine may as well have been the verbally dextrous Jerry Sandusky of Paris.
How much Homosexuality in the History of Western Lit was actually opportunistic?
I believe the “10%” figure (for Genetic Homosexuality) makes sense. I believe there’s a fuzzy boundary demographic of up to maybe 30% that will dabble, if nothing else is feasible, and I think social conditions may interact with the weak wiring-boundaries of that opportunity-influenced 30% (the boys most likely to get involved in circle jerks at Boy Scout camp, say) to produce situations like Bloomsbury. I believe I may, in fact, be Culturally Gay (while physiologically straight as the shortest distance between two points) because although I stand to attention whenever my Wife walks into the room, and the curves of her narrow waist flaring to encompass her hips and plummet as graceful as cliff divers to trace her long, slender legs, down to her fragile ankles (one of which is tattooed with a sunflower) to her tiny shoes, make me sigh, and all beautiful women get at least a little autonomic twitch out of me, my pantheon consists of Paul Bowles, Harold Brodkey, Rufus Wainwright, WSB, Morrissey, Bruce Chatwin, Goldfrapp, the Queerest parts of Monty Python… well, but lots of straights (Nabokov, Roth, Calvino, Mati Klarwein, William Klein, King Crimson, Fellini, Joyce, Didion, Archie Schepp, Stefan Zechowski, Zappa, JLG, VS Pritchett, Kubrick, Serling, Lucian Freud, Kate Bush, Ted Hughes, Vonnegut, Sam Cooke, Modigliani) too. Maybe the theory needs work.
Wiki refers to the thing between Rimbaud and Verlaine as “romantic”.
Was there toilet paper in 19th century Paris?
saw my retarded upstairs toddler-neighbor walking up the stairs, with his ugly mother, last week, on his tip toes, because that’s how he knows to walk. Which made me think of retarded hypothetical ballerinas, an entire troupe: why not? Famous the world over. THE RETARDED BALLERINAS PERFORM THE NUTCRACKER IN PARIS: SOLD OUT. I can see (perfectly) their immense grace and beaming faces!
I’d rather see retarded Ballerinas than obese fashion models. I think the obese should be (re)trained as Seers/ Psychics/ Palm-Readers/ Tarot card readers/ Mediums. I’d like to see the obese in voluminous and mystic-seeming robes of fine (but very opaque) material. In the obese, the body is not a strong point, so why go so far as to emphasize the corporeality of the obese by putting them on the cover of Vogue or in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendars? Though I know there’s a certain kind of postmodern Western “Logic” that prefers to super-promote Heroic Ironies (eg: the one-legged soccer star, the armless swimmer) with which to supposedly inspire The Masses. Inspire or Depress?
“In later published recollections of his first sight of Rimbaud at the age of sixteen, Verlaine described Rimbaud as having “the real head of a child, chubby and fresh, on a big, bony, rather clumsy body of a still-growing adolescent”…
Read between the lines. Go on: do it. It’s not hard to. The story there is obvious. Read it.
In May 1871, aged 16, Rimbaud wrote two letters explaining his poetic philosophy, commonly called the Lettres du voyant (“Letters of the Seer”). In the first, written 13 May to Izambard, Rimbaud explained:
I’m now making myself as scummy as I can. Why? I want to be a poet, and I’m working at turning myself into a seer. You won’t understand any of this, and I’m almost incapable of explaining it to you. The idea is to reach the unknown by the derangement of all the senses. It involves enormous suffering, but one must be strong and be a born poet. It’s really not my fault.
The gravity-free ravings of a precocious teen!
Why do we take them so seriously, so reverently, with such gravity, 150 years later, these poignantly jejune declarations? Precocious teens are posting precisely such pretentiously sententious twaddle on message boards, comment threads and DMs, all over the virtual world, at this moment. The literate ones, I mean. Verlaine would love it.
Verlaine would be all over TikTok.
Imagine a really obese Queer Medium, in voluminous robes of tulle and satin and glitter and wearing black, horn-rimmed glasses, esconced in a dimly lit, roach-infested salon above an aromatic supper club, beef stew is being served downstairs, the obese Queer Medium is establishing contact with the shade of poor Rimbaud and, as a result, is sweating and growling a gutturally incomprehensible French mercenary slang during the jerking convulsions of Rimbaud’s unquiet possession of the obese Queer Medium body, butching it up to make a corrective impression.
“Albert Camus, in L’homme révolté, although he praised Rimbaud’s literary works (particularly his later prose works, Une saison en enfer and Illuminations – “he is the poet of revolt, and the greatest”), wrote a scathing account of his resignation from literature – and revolt itself – in his later life, claiming that there is nothing to admire, nothing noble or even genuinely adventurous, in a man who committed a “spiritual suicide”, became a “bourgeois trafficker” and consented to the materialistic order of things.”—Wiki
I think the crispy, post-“suicide” Rimbaud was perhaps more of an experience-scarred man than the eternally-boyish and rather moist Camus.
I’d argue that the vast majority of the POETRY field is a racket, like War.
I’d argue that there are two different “Laws of Gravity,” one for Inanimate Objects and one for Us and we are forced to obey both. The version which Inanimate Objects are free to blow raspberries at is the universal physical law that indicates that an inexorable force is pulling everything living toward its grave like ball bearings toward the deepest depressions in a tarp. This variation on Newton’s Law of Gravity cannot be expresed mathematically but only poetically and also happens to explain or describe the energy driving the kind of poetry that’s so good one forgets it’s fraudulent by definition.
Poetry is like the time I was being driven out toward new housing developments in San Diego and as we sped by the sprawling acres of one such gated community we saw some kind of specially-rigged tractor, with perforated booms extended like wings, literally spraying the grass of the sloping lawn greener.
That’s my working definition for Poetry.
One great free-standing work of poetry is as meaningless as one great song, or one great painting. A handful of not-bad artifacts is only a little less meaningless than one. Munch’s The Scream and the Left Banke’s Walk Away Renée are wondrous blips. Greatness is measured in sweeping or scattered or tumbling oeuvres. Life-long obsessions. Everything else gets a bronze medal. The Sun gets a bronze medal. Rimbaud gets a bronze medal. Syvia Plath didn’t grow old enough, write long enough, to be great. Ted Hughes did. The Snowflakes blocking the entrances of the pantheon will scream at this but let them.
Parnassus is not a luxury accommodation, it’s a bell jar and there is zero privacy.
“Ancient animals [. . .]”
Ancient animals copulated, even as they ran,
Their glans coated with blood and excrement.
Our fathers proudly displayed their members
By the fold of the sheath and the grain of the balls.
In the middle ages, for the female, angel or sow,
A well hung fellow was needed;
Even a Kléber, according to his breeches, lying
Perhaps a bit, must not have lacked resources.
Moreover, man is equal to the proudest mammal;
The hugeness of their member should not surprise us;
But a sterile hour has struck: the horse
And the ox have bridled their lust, and no one
Will dare again to raise his genital pride
In the woods where playful children are swarming.
—AR (17 years old)
When the Internet advanced to the point that it contained or could reach nearly every cultural artifact created by Humanity I went on a long and thorough quest to hunt down and acquire favorite films, some of which I’d only seen once, long ago, in an obscure Art House Cinema, with a leaky ceiling, in Gothic Philadelphia, for example. And I’ve since acquired almost every treasured film on that list (which was never more than 300 films) and en route, in perhaps a decade (the Internet having matured in c. 2011), I scoured through tens of thousands of films. Almost all bad or very bad. I don’t think you can grasp how many miles of film have been shot and processed since the technology was invented (4 years after Rimbaud died) but if it were all laid out, from end to end, it could form a crispy celluloid bridge to the Moon, and back, four and a half times over, for marching army ants to display their mighty number while carrying moondust back to Earth.
Most films, photographs, paintings, drawings, pomes, sculptures, tapestries, short stories, vases, songs, novels and frescoes are just plain shit. Many are just okay. Some impressionable and untalented schoolkid sees an exhbit of Leroy Neiman in the atrium of some fucking Texas giga-mall in 1989 and thinks I could do that! and that shit generates more shit and so on.
“Isabelle is wrong not to get married if some serious, well-educated fellow asks her, someone with a future. Such is life, and solitude is a bad thing down here. Personally I regret not being married and having a family. But now I am destined to wander about, associated with a very distant business, and each day I lost interest in the climate and the way of life and even the language of Europe.
Alas, what is the point of these trips back and forth, the fatigue and the adventures with unfamiliar races, and the languages we memorize, and the endless discomforts, if I cannot one day, after a few years, settle down in one fairly pleasant place, and found a family and at least have a son whom I will spend the rest of my life raising in accordance with my views, forming and strengthening with the most complete educationthat can be found at that time, and whom I will see grow into a famous engineer, a man made powerful and rich by science?But who knows how many more days my life will have in these mountains ?I could disappear, in the midst of these tribes, without news of me ever getting out.”
—-AR, from a letter to his sister and mother (when he was 29 years old)
I once lived over a German Beatles fanatic named Froehlich who had a guitar teacher, over to his place, three days a week, to murder The Beatles catalogue one song at a time, using amplifiers and a microphone and I’ve never hated any Human more than I hated this mustached fucker with clueless confidence and no sense of rhythm and his stupid accent. I still wish him a suture-popping rectal cancer death after all these years,
One is loathe to traffic in the pseudo-therapeutic jargon of Woke Concern Trolls but it’s clear that story of Rimbaud and Verlaine’s “relationship” was one of “Grooming,” Sexual Abuse and Violence. Verlaine tried to kill Arthur when the two-year situation had run its course. Arthur “mysteriously” quit Poetry and ran off to Africa. He quit Poetry because his poems reminded him of Verlaine’s pungent cock and what a gullible, infinitely malleable, victim Rimbaud’s adolescent sense of himself, as a genius, which Verlaine easily exploited, had turned him into. So why do so many people, who see potential Sexual Abuse twinkling in every Male Gaze, and lurking in the shadow of every erection, conjure Parnassus coiled in Fairy Lights when they speak of Arthur and Paul? A legendary “romantic” couple for as long as the Empire of the West endures.
There was proposed legislation to exhume and re-bury their bones together. Why not exhume and re-bury Humbert and Lo together, too? Because they’re merely literary characters or because they’re merely Cis?
Poor Rimbaud! Still in Hell! Snowflakes are blocking the exits!
—(written on the day I turned a defiant 64 years of age)