Arthur Rimbaud was a poet from France in the late 1800s. Like most, he was underappreciated in his time and died early, but nearly a century after his work he became an icon for the free loving, anti war hippies of the 60s and 70s.
Through his work, compiled and translated by Paul Schmidt, the reader may watch Rimbaud go from a fanciful, romantic teenager chasing love in the form of skirts and blonde hair to an angry young man searching desperately for his life through forbidden lovers and drugs. The fall of Rimbaud is chaotic yet beautiful, in the way only a poet could fall from grace.
Rimbaud’s early work describes beautiful women, gods and goddesses, and the golden, carefree days of youth. In his poems, he writes of girls who spin stars on their fingernails and the beauty of flowers and streams, painting a pretty picture of the soul of a romantic. However, through his letters to his mentor and friends, the reader catches a glimpse of a confused boy, desperate to make something of himself and escape the monotonous, ordinary life his mother is forcing him to lead.
As Rimbaud gets older, his desperation and longing for something more becomes increasingly explicit, and his poems take on the bitter edge of a hopeless youth, yet many are still laced with hope. Through his letters, the story of the poets journeys are told- his drug abuse and the gay lover that shot him in the hand in an alcohol induced rage being perhaps the most interesting.
Rimbaud, dead at 37, then spends the last few years of his life scorning the poetry and romance he loved in his youth. His bitterness and anger at the world are seen through his last few letters to the same lover who shot him, and then the world loses a poet who will be remembered as a lover, as the man who proclaimed “I don't love women. Love has to be reinvented, we know that.”
I've always been entranced by poetry and pretty words, but Arthur Rimbaud is truly the most interesting poet I've ever read. His struggles with love and life create beautiful poetry that kept me up at night, rereading and memorizing specific lines that I found especially beautiful or profound. While I'm generally more hopeless than romantic, Rimbaud had me wishing I could always see the world through his eyes, not just when I'm reading one of his poems. Even when what he wrote was about ugly things, it was still laced with the beauty that we associate with poetry.
Rimbaud is a poet anyone can enjoy, as I found when I read some of his sweeter poems to my younger cousins in an attempt to get them to sit still. Even at 4 and 5, they enjoyed the lovely way his words form and were content to sit and listen to me read for a good half an hour. Even if you're not a poetry person, Rimbaud is easily enjoyable and the way his tone changes from romantic to angry to sad makes it possible to find at least one poem that you will enjoy.
Review by Emily Kaley