Meet the rebellious poet who pioneered symbolism and inspired Bob Dylan, Arthur Rimbaud

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French poet Arthur Rimbaud was a prolific artist when he was a teenager. At once bohemian, provocative, idealistic and avant-garde, his works inspired Dylan’s songs and helped launch a whole new art form that we still use today.

From the start, Arthur Rimbaud saw his vocation chosen as more of a spiritual vocation. In his two letters entitled “Letters of the seer”, a 16-year-old Rimbaud likened poets to “seers” and strove to become a seer himself by losing his own individual consciousness and allowing himself to be invaded by “the seer”. unknown”. The unknown, in this case, being the music of the universe, the greatest life force, or the divinity itself.

Reaching this stranger, according to Rimbaud, would be the greatest achievement, “because he cultivated his own soul – which was initially rich – more than any other man!” … Even if he ends up losing comprehension of his visions, at least he saw them! ”


Arthur Rimbaud helped create Symbolist poetry.

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To accomplish this task, he developed a creative process known as the “All Sense Disorder”, by exposing himself to fasting, pain, alcohol, drugs – any psychotropic substance or activity. , essentially. Which probably looks like a typical artist. But you know, Rimbaud did it before It was cool.

Unconventional methods or not, they opened his mind to creative innovation. Trying to sum up his dreamy visions in words, Rimbaud helped create a whole new form of poetry that rejected the doctrines of realism and naturalism in what is now known as symbolism. By escaping the clutches of strict language models, Rimbaud allowed for a more shapeless poem structure, letting images and their associations determine the form of the poem. So began the prose poem.

It is not surprising that Dylan, a venerable creator of “vision music”, often cited Rimbaud as his favorite poet. “When I read those words, the bells rang. It made perfect sense. I wish someone had told me about it sooner,” he wrote in “Chronicles vol 1”.

You can certainly see Rimbaud’s influence in the lyrics to “Like a Rolling Stone”, for example. While this is a fun rock anthem, the structure and word choices make a lot more sense.


Bob Dylan – Like a Rolling Stone (Official audio)

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At 17, Rimbaud wrote one of his now most famous works, “The Drunken Boat”, which tells the story of a drunken boat freed from constraint and succumbing to elemental forces … ostensibly bringing it all back to themes of the journey into the unknown. His work caught the attention of the famous poet Paul Verlaine and thus began a passionate and tumultuous love story as rocky as the seas in Rimbaud’s poem.

Verlaine, a patron-turned-lover, invited young Rimbaud to his home, which sparked a wild, drug-induced romance again and again between the two. The affair was so tumultuous and chaotic that Verlaine shot Rimbaud in a drunken rage. It’s all a lovers quarrel.

Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud began a steamy love affair

“À table” by Henri Fantin-Latour staged Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud and others.

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Their bitter and final farewell gave way to a deeply existential crisis for Rimbaud, leaving him disillusioned about all his ideals, both personal and creative, which he reflected in his work “A season in hell”, alias “A season in hell. “. Rimbaud shares the underworld of his chaotic attraction to Verlaine, as well as “the failure of his own overly ambitious aesthetic”, according to Britannica. The book ends with a piece with the simple title “Adieu,” which many see as a farewell to poetry itself, at least in the distinctive voice that Rimbaud has carved out for himself.

Silence afterwards. At least for his poetry. Rimbaud put aside the philosophical unknown and instead opted for the physical adventure, traveling in the Alps, visiting Egypt and eventually making round trips to Africa under the employment of a coffee trader. What seems to me to be an old-fashioned way of ditching your beloved blog and going to work for Starbucks. Sad.

Rimbaud only returned to Paris for the last time before dying at the age of 37, of what first appeared to be arthritis and was later diagnosed with bone cancer. And just like that, the life of the stupendous and prolific writer was cut short. But not without leaving a lasting mark on poetry.

In a poem entitled “L’Alchimie du Verbe”, Rimbaud deplores his failures by writing “I flattered myself that I had invented a poetic language which, one day or another, would be understood by all”. Like many true visionaries, Rimbaud never saw his dreams come to life.

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