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|Over the past few weeks, I have been reviewing Aristotle's masterpiece POETICS, in preparation for an upcoming year-long screenwriting program at
the local University, which begins in a few weeks. Ironically, POETICS was the book I purchased along with the first Rimbaud text I happened upon, A SEASON IN HELL. I first read both of these masterpieces when I was a mere nineteen.
After reading Artistotle's philosophy again, some four years later, I came across a passage that is quite pertinent to many of the debates that seem to plague Rimbaud readers. The following passage is directly taken from J.L. Creed and E. E. Wardman's translation: (THE PHILOSOPHY OF ARISTOTLE, Mentor Books)
|Generally speaking, it seems that there are two causes that account for the origins of poetry, both of them natural. Imitating is natural to human beings from childhood onwards; man differs from other animals in being extremely imitative; his first steps... (are led) through imitation... Imitating, melody and rhythm are natural to us (clearly verse meters are part of rhythm). People had a natural bent for them to start with, advanced them in slow degrees, and produced the art of poetry as a result of their improvising. Poetry then became SUBDIVIDED, according to the character proper of each kind of poet: serious people imitated fine actions and the actions of good men, whereas more ordinary people imitated the actions of "inferior" men. First, these latter wrote invectives, just as others wrote hymns and songs of praise... Once tragedy and comedy had appeared, people pursued each according to their own true character...|
|Ironically, this same sort of debate has been going on amongst the DRUNKEN BOAT mailing list members, though showing itself in much more subtle
ways - so subtle, many of the listers may not have even made a mental note of it. On the mailing list, our demographics run from 14 years of age to late 50's. This is quite a bit of difference, as is the locale and occupation of the listers. It amazes
me just HOW MANY people Rimbaud's work touches. And moreso, what interests me is the IMPACT that Rimbaud's lifestyle and philosophies has on the lives of others, just as Baudelaire (and perhpaps even Dionysus) influenced young Arthur before him. I have
spoken to individuals (myself included for a short time) who have followed Rimbaud's "derangement of the senses" philosophy and are seeking to find the physical sensations of what Rimbaud, a very young man, claimed to experience. You may remember, Jim
Morrison of '60's psychedlic/drama band The Doors, adopted the same ideology throughout his career and spoke openly about "opening the doors of perception (through derangement of the senses)"...
How is it that one single poet could have such an affect on so many people, on so many generations? Besides what Aristotle has said about humans being creatures of imitation, I would think this goes much deeper. Rimbaud was one of the few adventurers of the self --- we are all blessed to have been privy to his journalistic poems, especially when one considers that the vast majority of his manuscripts were burnt to a crisp by the poet himself. Add to that the fact his family wanted many of his works destroyed, and it is nothing less than a godsend that we can head to our local bookshop and pick up a copy of ILLUMINATIONS or A SEASON IN HELL.
And now to the question that perplexes me --- Aristotle states that humans naturally rotate towards works that are a direct reflection of what is going on inside them. This would definitely explain Rimbaud's natural appeal to younger readers. I have seen ridiculous claims that Rimbaud was "the first Rock Star" and there are actually a few poor books written on the subject, sadly. It is well enough to say that Rimbaud is a writer that younger people can relate to --- he, too, was writing during an age when "things just didn't fit" (to paraphrase REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE) . But, then, what does Arthur Rimbaud touch in someone older? I have thought long and hard about this as I head toward my mid-twenties. I often wonder if he will still hold the same fascination and wonder for me as he did when I was nineteen. And the conclusion I have come up with is a big resounding yes....
Because Arthur Rimbaud is someone any dreamer, any thinker, and free-mind can relate to, in one way or the next. He represented, in his lifestyle, a longing all of us encounter for M O R E.... and in his writing, he presented a dreamscape of beauty and horror, equally. Rimbaud spared none of us his worst fears or his most grandiose dreams... As Aristotle has said:
|... all people get pleasure from imitations. An indication of this is what happens with works of art: there are things that give us great pain when seen in the flesh, yet we enjoy looking at pictures of them that are exact likenesses --- things such as the most repellent animals and corpses.|
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