Poetry · Reviews

“A Season in Hell” by Arthur Rimbaud

I understand, and not knowing how to express myself without pagan words, I’d rather remain silent.

I am not going to lie to you. This is definitely not the kind of book I would randomly read. To be quite honest, I wasn’t even aware of its existence until I found myself reading Patti Smith’s M Train and watching Ed Harris’ Pollock in the very same week. The title, A Season in Hell, was what caught my attention at first; then there was Patti Smith’s dedication to the author and the quote Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden), Pollock’s wife, had on her wall.

This is definitely the kind of book that scares me; and yet I found myself buying a copy and reading it.

To whom shall I hire myself out? What beast should I adore? What holy image is attacked? What hearts shall I break? What lies should I uphold? In what blood tread?

Rimbaud’s writing feels… restless. At first there seems to be a sort of chaos, like he has happened upon a world that sees contradictions as twins in the same womb, sharing one beating heart, instead of distant cousins. He seems to be drowning in an ocean of everything and nothing. You can almost hear his breathlessness, which seems tainted not by wonder, awe, but by adrenalin.

As someone who used to write things, I think I recognize the conflict. I would say that writing poetry is not something someone does lightly. Once you put something down, it truly feels like there’s no turning back, no deleting. What’s done is done. With Rimbaud, it’s as if he’s going through some sort of catharsis, like he has decided to write everything… and then be done with it for life. It’s fascinating how he seems to have gone through all this process before even reaching the age of twenty. And his writing! It’s quite extraordinary.

He made it twenty times, that lovers’ promise. It was as vain as when I said to him: ‘I understand you’.

I am sure I will have to revisit this book later on. First, though, I feel like I need to read more about the author and perhaps some of his other work as well.


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