The Significance Of Arthur Rimbaud

By Robert S. Robbins

Arthur Rimbaud, French poet (1854 - 1891). Rimbaud has always been my favorite poet and literary role model because he was the first self-styled visionary that I came across in my reading. My high regard for Rimbaud is based on a deliberate misinterpretation of his significance. I was attracted by the "myth of Rimbaud" because I needed a representative figure of a literary genius based on divine inspiration and not technical merit. William Blake would have served as a better role model, being a poet in possession of the visionary faculty, but my prejudice for modernity kept me from investigating any of the Romantics. The fact that Rimbaud's creative struggles have assumed the proportions of a timeless myth is well documented in René Etiemble's study Le Mythe de Rimbaud and many writers have retold the myth in new works of fiction based on Rimbaud's life story.

Arthur Rimbaud Rimbaud sought to cultivate his soul, to arrive at the unknown through the disordering of all the senses, to make himself a visionary. These do not seem like unreasonable goals to me. To "cultivate one's soul" is a fine poetic expression and beautifully expresses the intriguing notion that the soul is something that can be developed. Of course, you can only entertain this notion if you do not find your psyche to be completely opaque to you. It also seems reasonable to arrive at the unknown through a disordering of all the senses. The "known" is only known through the senses. The unknown can be found by exploring the unconscious mind where there is much that is not known to the conscious mind.

I believe every artist should adopt Rimbaud's ideals and seek the illumination of the soul. The poet should look within to find a heightened significance and then manifest that significance in his writing. The inspired poet dreams exceptionally well, experiencing miracles of the imagination, the visions Rimbaud sought and found at times.

Unfortunately, today's writers and poets are too closely associated with academia. The poet has become indistinguishable from the scholar and a new ideal of professionalism demands that poetry be regarded as a craft rather than genius. There is a new emphasis on the craftsmanship of poetry, an emphasis on its superficial aspects, and a disregard for inspiration. The poet-scholar values perspiration over inspiration and will often repeat the old cliché "writing is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration". Note that the figures may vary but not the disproportion. In Janus-Faced Modernism by Langdon Hammer, the author suggests an interesting sociological shift in the poet's role in society from "the genius" to the "poet-critic". Hart Crane represents the poet as genius, "a romantic poet whose mystical claims to personal vision seem naive and reckless beside the learned skepticism of Eliot". Allen Tate represents the career poet "sustained by reviewing, literary criticism, and the teaching of poetry, including classes in creative writing". The career poet needs to promote the perspiration of writing in order to create the demand for workshops and vast amounts of scholarly analysis. The career poet needs to denigrate inspiration and the very concept of visionary genius because he cannot serve as a guru. It is hard to imagine Rimbaud as a modern poet-scholar.

Arthur RimbaudOf course, the scholars have embraced Rimbaud to the extent that he provides "difficult material" which requires reams of scholarly analysis to explicate. However, I suspect the scholars are treating Rimbaud like a child. Their work is full of skepticism. Rimbaud's perfectly understandable yearning for the ideal is presented as a fool's quest and he comes across as a miserable failure forced to abandon poetry when it could not transcend itself. The scholar specializes in demystifying the mystifying which robs the poet of his function as the oracle of the sacred.

Much of Rimbaud's work expresses the arrogance of a very powerful imagination, one that feels capable of transcending poetry. I believe that Rimbaud did not so much abandon poetry, when it did not accomplish magic, as he gave it up in disgust with its limitations. A Season In Hell provides many clues to the scope of Rimbaud's inner life. In Night Of Hell he claims "I have all the talents". He also expresses extraordinary confidence in the richness of his inner life, "I'll keep quiet on that: poets and visionaries would be jealous. I'm a thousand times richer than they. Let's be miserly like the sea.".  And his statement "I came to find my mind's disorder sacred" is the sort of thing you say when you revere your imagination.

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Selected Bibliography - Books In My Collection
Underlined titles are not hyperlinks. PB = paperback, HC = hard cover

1. Rimbaud by Pierre Petitfil ISBN 0-8139-1142-7 ©1987 University Press of Virginia

2. Arthur Rimbaud by Enid Starkie ISBN 0-8112-0197-X ©1961 New Directions PB

3. Arthur Rimbaud by Enid Starkie Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 61-18468 ©1961 New Directions HC

4. Rimbaud: Complete Works, Selected Letters translated by Wallace Fowlie ISBN 0-226-71973-1 ©1966 University of Chicago Press

5. A Season In Hell & Illuminations translated by Bertrand Mathieu ISBN 0-918526-89-2 ©1991 BOA Editions Ltd PB

6. A Season In Hell & Illuminations translated by Bertrand Mathieu ISBN 0-918526-88-4 ©1991 BOA Editions Ltd HC

7. A Season In Hell & The Drunken Boat translated by Louise Varese ISBN 0-8112-0185-6 ©1961 New Directions

8. Illuminations translated by Louise Varese ISBN 0-8112-0184-8 ©1957 New Directions

9. Collected Poems translated by Oliver Bernard ISBN 0-14-042064-9 ©1986 Penguin Classics Books

10. The Time Of The Assassins by Henry Miller ISBN 0-8112-0115-5 ©1962 New Directions

11. Rimbaud In Abyssinia by Alain Borer ISBN 0-688-07594-0 ©1984 William Morrow & Co.

12. Rimbaud's Theatre Of The Self by James Lawler ISBN 0-674-77075-7 ©1992 Harvard University Press

13. Delirium by Jeremy Reed ISBN 0-7206-0825-2 ©1991 Peter Owen Publishers

14. Total Eclipse by Christopher Hampton ISBN 0-571-17873-1 ©1995 Faber and Faber

15. Splendide-Hotel by Gilbert Sorrentino ISBN 0-8112-0514-2 ©1973 New Directions #130

16. Rimbaud by Wallace Fowlie ©1946 New Directions

17. Rimbaud translated by Paul Schmidt ISBN 0-679-43321-X ©1994 Borzoi Book, Alfred A. Knopf, Everyman's Library Pocket Poets

18. Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Verlaine edited by Joseph M. Bernstein, translated by Arthur Symon ISBN 0-8065-0196-0 ©1990 Citadel Press Book

19. Poem & Symbol: A Brief History of French Symbolism by Wallace Fowlie ISBN 0-271-00696-X ©1990 Pennsylvania State University Press

20. Illuminations: Coloured Plates edited by Nick Osmond ISBN 0-485-12710-5 ©1993 The Athlone Press

21. Rimbaud: The Works translated by Dennis J. Carlile ISBN 0-7388-5200-7 ©2000 Xlibris Corporation

22. Arthur Rimbaud: Presence Of An Enigma by Jean-Luc Steinmetz, translated by Jon Graham ISBN 1-56649-251-3 ©2001 Welcome Rain Publishers PB

23. Arthur Rimbaud: Presence Of An Enigma by Jean-Luc Steinmetz, translated by Jon Graham ISBN 1-56649-106-1 ©2001 Welcome Rain Publishers HC

24. Rimbaud Complete translated by Wyatt Mason ISBN 0-679-64230-7 ©2002 Modern Library

25. I Promise To Be Good translated by Wyatt Mason ISBN 0-679-64301-X ©2003 Modern Library

26. Poésies by Arthur Rimbaud ISBN 2-87714-132-4 ©1995 Maxi-Poche Classiques Français (in French)

27. Rimbaud by Graham Robb ISBN 0-393-04955-8 ©2000 W. W. Norton

28. The Poetry Of Rimbaud by Robert Greer Cohn ISBN 1-57003-332-3 ©1999 University of South Carolina Press

29. Arthur Rimbaud: Complete Works translated by Paul Schmidt ISBN 0-06-095550-3 ©2000 Perennial

30. A Season In Hell And Illuminations translated by Mark Treharne ISBN 0-460-87984-7 ©1998 Dent Paperback

31. A Season In Hell translated by Paul Schmidt with photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe ISBN 0-8212-2458-1 ©1997 A Bulfinch Press Book

32. Rimbaud: Arthur Rimbaud & The Magic Of Poetry by Jeremy Robinson ISBN: 1-871846-56-0 ©1992 Crescent Moon Publishing

33. Rimbaud: A Critical Introduction by C. A. Hackett ISBN: 0-521-22976-6 ©1981 Cambridge University Press

34. Arthur Rimbaud: Modern Critical Views edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom ISBN: 1-55546-285-5 ©1988 Chelsea House Publishers

35. Rimbaud: A Critical Study by Wallace Fowlie ©1967 University Of Chicago Press PB

36. Rimbaud And Jim Morrison: The Rebel As Poet by Wallace Fowlie ISBN: 0-8223-1445-2 ©1994 Duke University Press

37. Rimbaud by Yves Bonnefoy ISBN: 2-02-019830-4 ©1994 Editions du Seuil (in French)

38. The Orphic Vision: Seer Poets From Novalis To Rimbaud by Gwendolyn Bays Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 63-14693 ©1964 University Of Nebraska Press

39. From Absinthe To Abyssinia by Mark Spitzer ISBN: 0-88739-293-8 ©2002 Creative Arts Book Company

40. Rimbaud le fils by Pierre Michon ISBN: 2-07-038808-5 ©1991 Éditions Gallimard (in French)

41. Arthur Rimbaud, Updated Edition by Frederick Chase St. Aubyn ISBN: 0-8057-8227-3 ©1988 G. K. Hall & Co.

42. Rimbaud le Voyou by Benjamin Fondane ISBN: 2-901376-45-2 ©1979 Éditions PLASMA (in French)

43. Rimbaud: The Boy And The Poet by Edgell Rickword ©1924 Alfred A. Knopf

44. A Season In Hell / The Illuminations translated by Enid Rhodes Peschel ISBN: 0-19-501760-9 ©1974 Oxford University Press

45. My Poor Arthur by Elisabeth Hanson Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 60-6664 ©1960 Henry Holt and Company

46. Collected Poems translated by Martin Sorrell ISBN: 0-19-283344-8 ©2001 Oxford University Press

47. Rimbaud, Mon Beau Salaud! by Claude Jasmin ©1969 Éditions du Jour (in French)

48. Rimbaud Œuvres complètes, presented and annotated by Antoine Adam, Paris: Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Gallimard ©1972 (in French)

49. Rimbaud par lui-même by Yves Bonnefoy ©1967 Écrivains de Toujours aux éditions du seuil (in French)

50. The Day On Fire by James Ramsey Ullman Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 58-10060 ©1958 The World Publishing Company

51. Rimbaud: A Season In Hell & Other Poems translated by Norman Cameron ISBN: 0-85646-220-9 ©2001 Anvil Press Poetry

52. Rimbaud by Claude Jeancolas ISBN: 2-08-067374-2 ©1999 Flammarion (in French)

53. Rimbaud poems by James Gerald Koch ISBN: 1-884778-16-X ©1996 Old Mountain Press

54. Arthur Rimbaud by Benjamin Ivry ISBN: 1-899791-71-X ©1998 Absolute Press

55. Orpheus In Brooklyn by Bertrand Mathieu ISBN: 1-890357-11-1 ©2003 Florida Academic Press

56. Visions And Habitations by Edward J. Ahearn ISBN: 0-520-04591-2 ©1983 University Of California Press

57. A Season In Hell: The Life Of Rimbaud by Jean-Marie Carré ©1931 The Macaulay Company

58. La Symbolique De Rimbaud by Jacques Gengoux ©1947 Éditions du Vieux-Colombier (in French)

59. The Design Of Rimbaud's Poetry by John Porter Houston Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 63-13964 ©1963 Yale University Press

60. Rimbaud: The Myth Of Childhood by Wallace Fowlie ©1946 Dennis Dobson Limited, Printed In Great Britain

61. A Season In Hell translated by Delmore Schwartz ©1939 New Directions

62. Emergence: Baudelaire Mallarmé Rimbaud by Cyril Welch and Liliane Welch Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 72-96845 ©1973 Bald Eagle Press / State College PA

63. Dream And Action: The Amazing Story Of Arthur Rimbaud Adventurer, Trader, Soldier And Poet by Leonard Bacon ©1934 Harper & Brothers Publishers

64. Arthur Rimbaud par Claude-Edmonde Magny Poètes d'aujourd'hui 12 Seghers ©1967 by Éditions, Seghers Paris (in French)

65. De Rimbaud Au Surrealsime Panorama Critique par Georges-Emmanuel Clancier ©1959 by Pierre Seghers (in French)

66. Rimbaud be Damned: I Have Withstood 99,000 Seasons In Hell And I Still Look Down Into This Glass Wondering, Wondering by Charles Bukowski ©2002 Earth Books (signed by Steve Richmond)

67. Rimbaud by Rolf Vasellari ©1991Black Sheep Press

68. Axel's Castle: A Study In The Imaginative Literature Of 1870 to 1930 by Edmund Wilson ©1959 Charles Scribner's Sons New York

69. Œuvres de Rimbaud by Suzanne Bernard ©1960 Éditions Garnier Frères, Classiques Garnier (in French)

70. Rimbaud et le mythe solaire by Marc Eigeldinger ©1964 A La Baconnière Printed in Switzerland (in French)

71. Rimbaud mystique contrarié by Stanislas Fumet ©1966 Libraire Plon La Recherche De L'Absolu (in French)

72. Poesies by Arthur Rimbaud ©1966 Aux Quais De Paris (in French)

73. Rimbaud by Yves Bonnefoy, translated by Paul Schmidt ISBN: 06-136017-1 ©1973 Harper & Row

74. The Book Of Rimbaud by Keith Abbott ISBN: 0-912284-86-2 ©1977 New Rivers Press

75. Poems Of The Damned by Arthur Rimbaud translated by Jacques Le Clercq ©1960 Peter Pauper Press

76. The Prince & The Genie by John MacCombie Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 70-164440 ©1972 University Of Massachusetts Press

77. A Concordance To The Œuvres Complètes Of Arthur Rimbaud by William C. Carter and Robert F. Vines ISBN: 8214-0216-1 ©1978 Ohio University Press: Athens

78. Le Problème de Rimbaud: Poète Maudit by Marcel Coulon ©1921From the library of poet Countee Cullen with his bookplate. (in French)

79. The William J. Jones Collections Rimbaud - Butor At Southwest Missouri State University by F. C. St. Aubyn ©1986 Friends Of The SMSU Libraries

80. Arthur Rimbaud par Frédéric Musso (Collection Les Geants) ©1972 Editions Pierre Charron (in French)

81. Oeuvres: Des Ardennes Au Désert par Arthur Rimbaud ©1990 ISBN: 2-266-08276-0 Pocket Classiques (in French)

82. Vers Nouveaux: Une Saison en Enfer par Arthur Rimbaud ©1989 ISBN: 2-08-070506-7 GF-Flammarion 506 (in French)

83. A Season In Hell by Arthur Rimbaud ©1995 ISBN: 0-14-600165-6 Penguin 60s Classics PB

84. The Cursed Poets (Les Poètes Maudits) by Paul Verlaine ISBN: 1-931243-15-8 ©2003  Green Integer PB

85. Arthur Rimbaud: Illuminations translated by Daniel Sloate ISBN: 0-920717-04-7 ©1990 Guernica Editions, printed in Canada PB

86. Rimbaud: A Critical Study by Wallace Fowlie Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 65-20963 ©1967 University Of Chicago Press HC

87. Poésies. Une Saison en enfer. Illuminations préface de René Char, Éditions de Loius Forestier ISBN: 2-07-040900-7 ©1999 Folio Classique #3248 (in French) PB

88. Arthur Rimbaud, 1854-1891: Une saison en enfer. Passeport by Bernard Bousmanne, Paul Claes, Yves Peyré  ISBN: 90-6153-546-8 ©2004 BO ZAR BOOKS (in French) PB

89. The Symbolist Movement In Literature (1919) by Arthur Symons and Richard Ellmann ISBN: 0-7661-8291-6 ©1919 Kessinger Publishing Reprint PB

90. A Season In Hell And Other Works edited and translated by Stanley Appelbaum ISBN: 0-486-43087-1 ©2003 Dover Publications PB

91. Rimbaud by Antoine Adam, et al. Collection Génies et Réalités ©1968 Librairie Hachette (in French) HC Red Leather

92. Je Suis Rimbaud by Terry Patten ©1972 Kingdom Kum Paperback PB

93. Oeuvres Poétiques chronologie et préface par Michel Décaudin ©1964 GF-Flammarion 20 (in French) PB

94. Poésies complètes introduction, notes et commentaires de Pierre Brunel ISBN: 9-782253-096351 ©1998 Le Livre De Poche LP4 (in French) PB

95. Savage Prodigal a novel by Konrad Bercovici ©1948 The Beechhurst Press HC

96. Arthur Rimbaud: Poètes d'aujourd'hui par Claude Edmonde Magny ©1956 Pierre Seghers Éditeur  (in French) PB

97. Poison And Vision: Poems and Prose of Baudelaire, Mallarmé and Rimbaud translated and with an introduction by David Paul ISBN: 0-394-71986-7 ©1974 Vintage Books PB

98. Rimbaud: The Boy And The Poet by Edgell Rickword ©1963 Background Books PB

99. Flux And Reflux: Ambivalence In The Poems Of Arthur Rimbaud by Enid Rhodes Peschel ©1977 Librairie Droz, Geneve

100. Correspondance 1888-1891 préface et notes de Jean Voellmy ©1965 Éditions Gallimard (in French) PB

101. Rimbaud's Poetic Practice: Image and Theme in the Major Poems by W. M. Frohock Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 63-13810 ©1963 Harvard University Press HC

102. The Poet's Vocation: Selections from the letters of Hölderlin, Rimbaud, and Hart Crane by William Burford and Christopher Middelton Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 62-62940 ©1962 Humanities Research Center, The University Of Texas HC

103. A Season In Abyssinia: An Impersonation of Arthur Rimbaud by Paul Strathern SBN: 333 13420 6 ©1972 MacMillan London Ltd. HC

104. The Drunken Boat & Other Poems From The French Of Arthur Rimbaud by Eric Greinke ©2005 Presa Press PB

Audio CDs
Une Saison en enfer - audio CD Poèmes Choisis - audio CD

Une Saison en enfer

Poèmes Choisis

Illuminations - audio CD


Elijah's Mantle - Poets And Visionaries

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