Departing to New Affections:
The Rimbaud Experience

Reading poetry is a special kind of experience among th reading experiences of reading literature. You can interpret it in many ways, and yet, a well-written poem has numerous interpretations not necessarily matching the poet’s original purposes of weaving words in that manner. I first had a whiff of Rimbaud’s popularity among French-speaking writers when I saw it mentioned in Kundera’s novel entitled Immortality as a favorite author of one of the principal characters.

While even the best of novels has words that can mostly and easily fade into view, words of an excellent poem are hard to understand and hard to forget. I am only halfway through Rimbaud’s poem collection entitled Illuminations, and honestly, I think I need more time to have the literary illumination to understand the beauty that just transpired on the pages. Arthur Rimbaud’s prose poems linger long after I’ve read them. I already took a shower, changed clothes, finished my meal, and passed over an hour after reading a few lines. But the lines stay in my head, lingering for additional rumination, for additional considerations that will definitely go beyond what this blog post can offer. It can take a lifetime to properly distill a poetic masterpiece such as this one. I can probably give away most of the books in the my collection, but I will always be in the habit of reading and re-reading Rimbaud because it’s interesting and holds different meanings at the various phases of life that the reader decides to experience it. And I read it out loud in French because it sounds so good as I absorb the meaning and the literary food it conveys to the depths of my reading soul.

Here’s a sample poem, possibly my most favorite in the collection:

(and I thank my basic French teachers for teaching me well enough to grasp a little of this masterpiece in original form)

DÉPART

by: Arthur Rimbaud

Assez vu. La vision s’est rencontrée à tous les airs.

Assez eu. Rumeurs des villes, le soir, et au soleil, et toujours.

Assez connu. Les arrêtes de la vie. — O Rumeurs et Visions!

Départ dans l’affection et le bruit neufs.

Louis Varese, a well-known and sophisticated literary translator, interprets this to:

DEPARTURE

Seen enough. The vision was met with in every air.

Had enough. Sounds of cities, in the evening and in the sun and always.

Known enough. Life’s halts. — O Sounds and Visions!

Departure in new affection and new noise.