"I'm now making myself as scummy as I can. Why? I want to be a poet, and I'm working at turning myself into a seer. You won't understand any of this, and I'm almost incapable of explaining it to you. The idea is to reach the unknown by the derangement of all the senses. It involves enormous suffering, but one must be strong and be a born poet. It's really not my fault." (Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud, 1871. Wikipedia)
Some people turn to writing and expressing their deepest emotions with the power of words later in life, their copious experiences their thesaurus. In others, the spark is lit early in life, burns bright, then is snuffed out.
Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud, born 20 October 1854, started writing from a very young age, and it was quickly obvious he was a gifted poet. He was an excellent student, but perhaps stymied in the world of academia, he ran away to Paris as a teenager during the Franco-Prussian War. It was during this time that the words poured from his soul and he wrote many works of poetry, a lot of which was assembled in the book titled, Illuminations. Then inextricably, he completely stopped writing at the age of 21. He spent the rest of his brief life exploring several continents as a merchant. Tragically, he died of cancer just after his 37th birthday on 10 November 1891. .
Rimbaud was known as quite a restless soul who loved hard and played harder. In 1871 Rimbaud had a torrid love affair with fellow poet Paul Verlaine (see Part 2 of this series for information on Verlaine). The next few years was a wild ride for the pair, spiced with absinthe, opium and hashish. Yet during this time Rimbaud still churned out the poetry, including one of his major works, A Season in Hell. Rimbaud is best known for his work with Symbolism and helping to ignite the flame of Surrealism.
On 27 October 1951, France issued a set of three stamps celebrating modern French poets. The 15f value of the set depicts Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud. This stamp was designed by Paul-Pierre Lemagny and engraved by Gabriel-Antoine Barlangue. It is worth mentioning that the portrait of Rimbaud used in this stamp was based on a portrait by Henri Fantin Latour..
The turbulent nature of this composition seems to mirror the wild life of Rimbaud. In the foreground we are faced with a youthful Rimbaud. His sits pensive, with hand on chin, perhaps ruminating over his next masterpiece. At the back left of the composition waterspouts (tornadoes on land) abound. Adrift in the churning maelstrom, a direct reflection of the poet's life, is a hapless ship, adrift, in dire need of respite. Behind the poet's shoulder to the right we see towering, snow-capped mountains and some butterfly-like creatures gamboling to some poetic tune only they can hear. In conclusion, what an awesome stamp!
Until next time...