RICHARD LOPEZ Engages
Rimbaud by Graham Robb
(Norton, New York, 2000)
[Previously published in Really Bad Movies, Jan. 31, 2013]
i needed a book to read. i took the day off work to run some errands which required a significant amount of time sitting in waiting rooms. the book i chose to re-read was Rimbaud by Graham Robb [Norton; 2000]. upon sitting in said waiting rooms i opened the tome and began reading the life of rimbaud after he gave up writing poetry and started his life as a trader first in aden then later harar. recently life had become a bit more stress-laden what with the dayjob and some plumbing problems with our house that required no less than three visits by the plumber. i thought reading rimbaud's life as a trader will rev me up a little; charge my batteries.
it did just that: charge my batteries. for rimbaud's example in life and art is so electrifying that his boring lists and complaints in letters to his mother that often end his turgid accounts of misery with an 'etc' revivify. rimbaud is a single force that all of us have reckoned with in our writing lives. why he should be so compelling is a bit of a mystery. and yet there it is. the life of a young man of ferocious vision whose art became his life.
perhaps that is it. in rimbaud life and art merged. even the later photographs of rimbaud taken in harar are awe striking. for me at least. especially the one with rimbaud wearing the fez. if my troubles are of some annoyance the difficulties rimbaud endured in his life in africa inspire because rimbaud thrived upon his troubles and prospered, i think, financially and emotionally. the dude is an inspiration to all of us who embark on the wild life of living and writing.
very few of my early loves remain with me. dylan thomas, hart crane, berryman, lowell, all those masters of my early days do not stir my heart or meet my tastes today. but rimbaud is still there. i love still the illuminations and a season in hell. this is a conceit but i take a certain amount of silly pride in knowing that rimbaud went prematurely grey too. in that, if not talent, for who could be adequate to the task rimbaud set for himself and poetry, we have a little in common. furthermore the exercise in the beauty and futility of life is captured in that great noun, poet. thru rimbaud we learn that an obsession with poetry is an obsession with life. poetry becomes life. and that great noun, poet, is not to be shyed away from but to be embraced. by any one who takes up pen, keyboard and language. rimbaud excesses belied his lean 'etc'. his life as a trader is lesson, for me at least, in how to conduct ourselves in our working days. rimbaud taught me a life in poetry is simply a life.
Richard Lopez writes, and lives, poetry.