Rimbaud Complete


Fact: April is national poetry month. Irony: it’s quite likely that the most exciting new book of verse was stamped Made in France more than a century ago. Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91) has been tagged by high-modernist writer Edith Sitwell as the “originator of modern prose rhythms,” and by rocker Patti Smith as “the first punk poet.” But his work is often obscured by his romanticized image–a self-made mystic spouting off about anarchism and sensory derangement, a favorite of adolescents of all ages. Rimbaud Complete (Modern Library, $24.95), Wyatt Mason’s bouncy new translation of the avant-garde poet’s hallucinatory corpus, finds new music in the writing, revealing a classical artist. The style is deliberate and dissolute and illusionistic, as in these lines from “The Drunken Boat” where the ship’s the speaker, and phosphorescent lyrics about the maddening sea give way to delicate sadness: “If I still long for Europe’s waters, it’s only for/One cold black puddle where a child crouches/Sadly at its brink and releases a boat,/Fragile as a May butterfly, into the fragrant dusk.”

Rimbaud Complete
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