Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Poems studied in last class etc.


Arthur Rimbaud made his way through language like some crazed channeller of unseen forces. As a Symbolist poet, Rimbaud scrambled the senses and his prose, forging a synaesthetic wash of words sustained by their own momentum and internal sense. There is no clear form (he did not write sonnets); there’s no iambic pentameter; nor is there always clear meaning. Rimbaud anticipated the free-form poetry of the Beats and the odd juxtapositions of the Surrealists while embodying all the angst, suffering, and drama of the Romantic nineteenth century of which he was a part.

Rimbaud was schooled in Charleville, a town in northeastern France where his family lived in poverty (his father had abandoned them when Rimbaud was six). Rimbaud was presumably a brilliant and precocious young man, immersing himself in his studies to offset the pains of poverty. When the Franco-Prussian war broke out in July of 1870, Rimbaud ran away from home. For the next year, he lived a squalid existence (he seemed to thrive on suffering) and continued to read poetry, prose, philosophy, and the occult.

In 1871, he sent his poems to the poet Paul Verlaine, who invited the young Rimbaud to live with him in Paris. The two became lovers, off and on, for the next two years, moving to London once the French literati had had enough of their depravity. Their relationship was often tumultuous; Verlaine spent 18 months in prison for hitting Rimbaud, who showed a certain schadenfreude at the situation. Soon after their relationship dissolved, Rimbaud, not even 20 years old, gave up writing. And in truly odd, Romantic fashion, he became a trader and gunrunner in Africa. He died in Marseille on Nov. 10, 1891, following the amputation of his right leg.

In his brief tenure as a poet, Rimbaud transformed the face of writing, turning out a prodigious amount of tortured, passionate, and angst-riddled work, including "Illuminations," "Sonnet of Vowels," "The Drunken Boat," "Letters from the Seer," and his infamous "Season in Hell." His combination of bravado, intelligence, spirituality, sexuality, and psychedelia has acted as proclaimed inspiration to a whole generation of twentieth-century rock 'n' rollers -- Jim Morrison, Patty Smith, and Bob Dylan among them.

The Sleeper in the Valley : A Sonnet

(Le Dormeur du Val)

In a green hollow, where a river sings

Madly catching white tatters in the grass.

Where the sun on the proud mountain rings:

Is a little valley, foaming like light in a glass.

A conscript, open-mouthed, his bare head

And bare neck bathed in the cool blue cress,

Sleeps: stretched out, under the sky, on grass,

Pale where the light rains down on his green bed.

Feet in the yellow flags, he sleeps. Smiling

As a sick child might smile, he’s dozing.

Nature, rock him warmly: he is cold.

The scents no longer make his nostrils twitch:

He sleeps in the sunlight, one hand on his chest,

Tranquil. In his right side, there are two red holes.


As I was floating down unconcerned Rivers,

I no longer felt myself steered by the haulers:

gaudy Redskins had taken them for targets,

nailing them naked to coloured stakes.

I cared nothing for all my crews

carrying Flemish wheat or English cottons.

When, along with my haulers,

those uproars were done with,

the Rivers let me sail downstream where I pleased.

Into the ferocious tide-rips, last winter,

more absorbed than the minds of children, I ran!

And the unmoored Peninsulas never endured more triumphant clamourings.

The storm made bliss of my sea-borne awakenings.

Lighter than a cork, I danced on the waves

which men call eternal rollers of victims,

for ten nights, without once missing the foolish eye of the harbor lights!

Sweeter than the flesh of sour apples to children,

the green water penetrated my pinewood hull

and washed me clean of the bluish wine-stains and the splashes of vomit,

carring away both rudder and anchor.

And from that time on I bathed in the Poem of the Sea,

star-infused and churned into milk,

devouring the green azures;

where, entranced in pallid flotsam, a dreaming drowned man sometimes goes down;

where, suddenly dyeing the bluenesses-

deliriums and slow rhythms under the gleams of the daylight,

stronger than alcohol, vaster than music

-ferment the bitter rednesses of love!

I have come to know the skies splitting with lightnings,

and the waterspouts, and the breakers and currents;

I know the evening, and Dawn rising up like a flock of doves,

and sometimes I have seen what men have imagined they saw!

I have seen the low-hanging sun speckled with mystic horrors

lighting up long violet coagulations like the performers in antique dramas;

waves rolling back into the distances

their shiverings of venetian blinds!

I have dreamed of the green night of the dazzled snows,

the kiss rising slowly to the eyes of the seas,

the circulation of undreamed-of saps,

and the yellow-blue awakenings of singing phosphorus!

I have followed, for whole months on end,

the swells battering the reefs like hysterical herds of cows,

-never dreaming that the luminous feet of the Marys

could muzzle by force the snorting Oceans!

I have struck, do you realize, incredible Floridas,

where mingle with flowers the eyes of panthers in human skins!

Rainbows stretched like bridles

under the seas-horizon to glaucous herds!

I have seen the enormous swamps seething,

traps where a whole leviathan rots in the reeds!

Downfalls of waters in the midst of the calm,

and distances cataracting down into abysses!

Glaciers, suns of silver, waves of pearl,

skies of red-hot coals!

Hideous wrecks at the bottom of brown gulfs where the giant snakes, devoured by vermin,

fall from the twisted trees with black odours!

I should have liked to show to children those dolphins of the blue wave,

those golden, those singing fishes.-

Foam of flowers rocked my driftings,

and at times ineffable winds would lend me wings.

Sometimes, a martyr weary of poles and zones,

the sea whose sobs sweetened my rollings lifted my shadow-flowers

with their yellow sucking disks toward me,

and I hung there like a kneeling woman...

[I was] almost an island,

tossing on my beaches the brawls and droppings of pale-eyed, clamouring birds.

And I was scudding along when across my frayed cordage

drowned men sank backwards into sleep!...

But now I, a boat lost under the hair of coves

, hurled by the hurricane into the birdless ether;

I, whose wreck, dead-drunk and sodden with water,

neither Monitor nor Hanse ships would have fished up;

free, smoking, risen from violet fogs,

I who bored through the wall of the reddening sky

which bears a sweetmeat good poets find delicious:

lichens of sunlight [mixed] with azure snot;

who ran, speckled with lunula of electricity,

a crazy plank with black sea-horses for escort,

when Julys were crushing with cudgel blows

skies of ultramarine into burning funnels;

I who trembled to feel at fifty league's distance

the groans of Behemoth's rutting, and of the dense Maelstroms;

eternal spinner of blue immobilities,

I long for Europe with its age-old parapets!

I have seen archipelagos of stars!

and islands whose delirious skies are open to sailors:

-Do you sleep, are you exiled in those bottomless nights,

O million golden birds, Life Force of the future?

But, truly, I have wept too much! The Dawns are heartbreaking.

Every moon is atrocious and every sun bitter:

sharp love has swollen me up with heady langours.

O let my keel split! O let me sink to the bottom!

If there is one water in Europe I want,

it is the black cold pool where into the scented twilight

a child squatting full of sadness launches a boat

as fragile as a butterfly in May.

I can no more, bathed in your langours,

O waves, sail in the wake of the carriers of cottons;

nor undergo the pride of the flags and pennants;

nor pull past the horrible eyes of the hulks.

Translation by Oliver Bernard

"Like city's rain, my heart . . ."

The rain falls gently on the town.
Arthur Rimbaud

Like city's rain, my heart
Rains teardrops too. What now,
This languorous ache, this smart
That pierces, wounds my heart?

Gentle, the sound of rain
Pattering roof and ground!
Ah, for the heart in pain,
Sweet is the sound of rain!

Tears rain-but who knows why?-
And fill my heartsick heart.
No faithless lover's lie? . . .
It mourns, and who knows why?

And nothing pains me so--
With neither love nor hate--
As simply not to know
Why my heart suffers so.

For Charles Baudelaire

I do not know you now, or like you, nor
Did I first know or like you, I admit.
It's not for me to furbish and restore
Your name: if I take up the cause for it,

It's that we both have known the exquisite
Joys of two feet together pressed: His, or
Our whores! He, nailed; they, swooning in love's fit,
Madly anointed, kissed, bowed down before!

You fell, you prayed. And so did I, like all
Those souls whom thirst and hunger, yearningly,
Shining with hope, urged on to Calvary!

--Calvary, righteous, where--here, there--our fall,
In art-contorted doubts, weeps its chagrin.
A simple death, eh? We, brothers in sin.



A term used by the Russian Formalist Viktor Shklovsky to describe the capacity of art to counter the deadening effect of habit and convention by investing the familiar with strangeness and thereby de-automatizing perception. Defamiliarization is not simply a question of perception; it is the essence of "literariness." Calling attention to its techniques and conventions ("baring the device"), literature exposes its autonomy and artificiality by foregrounding and defamiliarizing its devices.

A Martian Sends A Postcard Home

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings -
they cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek without pain.
I have never seen one fly, but
sometimes they perch on the hand.
Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
and rests its soft machine on ground:
then the world is dim and bookish
like engravings under tissue paper.
Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the property of making colours darker.
Model T is a room with the lock inside -
a key is turned to free the world
for movement, so quick there is a film
to watch for anything missed.
But time is tied to the wrist
or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.
In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,
that snores when you pick it up.
If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep
with sounds. And yet they wake it up
deliberately, by tickling with a finger.
Only the young are allowed to suffer
openly. Adults go to a punishment room
with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises
alone. No one is exempt
and everyone's pain has a different smell.
At night when all the colours die,
they hide in pairs
and read about themselves -
in colour, with their eyelids shut.
n       Craig Raine


by Willie van Peer & Frank Hakemulder

(published in In The Pergamon Encyclopaedia of Language and Linguisitics, ed. Keith Brown. Oxford: Elsevier, 2006, vol. 4, pp. 546-551.)

What literature is, how it works, and why it is there at all, are some of the fascinating questions that the theory of 'foregrounding' tries to provide answers to. The term refers to specific linguistic devices, i.e., deviation and parallelism, that are used in literary texts in a functional and condensed way. These devices enhance the meaning potential of the text, while also providing the reader with the possibility of aesthetic experience. According to the theory of foregrounding, literature - by employing unusual forms of language - breaks up the reader's routine behavior: commonplace views and perspectives are replaced by new and surprising insights and sensations. In this way literature keeps or makes individuals aware of their automatized actions and preconceptions. It thus contributes to general creativity and development in societies. The theory of foregrounding is also one of the few literary theories which has been tested empirically for its validity.


may i feel said he

   may i feel said he
   (i'll squeal said she
   just once said he)
   it's fun said she
   (may i touch said he
   how much said she
   a lot said he)
   why not said she
   (let's go said he
   not too far said she
   what's too far said he
   where you are said she)
   may i stay said he
   (which way said she
   like this said he
   if you kiss said she
   may i move said he
   is it love said she)
   if you're willing said he
   (but you're killing said she
e.e.cummings (punctuation, spacing, capitalization – unconventional – graphological deviation/ foregrounding - capturing the attention of the reader through these )

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