Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Poets from around the World #3 - Arthur Rimbaud (Charleville, France)

Arthur Rimbaud by Vincent Smith

Arthur Rimbaud was born in Charleville in 1954. He was a prodigy but also a bit of a delinquent, rude and undisciplined. One of his teachers made a prophetic statement – “he is intelligent but has eyes and a smile I do not like … he will end badly. He will be the genius of good or evil”. As a teenager he ran away to Paris on several occasions and tried unsuccessfully to get his poems published. Later he thought of sending copies to the established poet Paul Verlaine, who invited him to come to Paris to stay with him and his family. However, Rimbaud was so dirty, unkempt and rude that he upset everybody and was ordered out of the house. Verlaine was so besotted with the young genius that he went with him and they spent a period living together and having a homosexual relationship. They went to London and worked as French teachers, but Verlaine wanted to end the affair and one evening after a drunken quarrel he produced a pistol and fired two shots at Rimbaud. He was arrested and although Rimbaud was not seriously hurt, was imprisoned for two years.

Rimbaud took up with another writer, Germain Nouveau and in 1874 went with him to London. But Nouveau saw the danger to his own reputation of being associated with Rimbaud and he quickly ended their relationship.

Rimbaud gave up his literary pretensions and spent the rest of his life wandering around Europe and farther afield, doing largely unsavoury jobs. He worked as a mercenary in Java and a gun runner in Ethiopia, where, under the cover of a legitimate business he was also involved in the slave trade. In 1891 he developed what was almost certainly bone cancer and had an unpleasant last few months. He had a leg amputated but the cancer spread rapidly and he died in late 1891 at the age of 37. All his poetry had been written before the age of 21, yet he had an important influence on the direction poetry was to take.

One of his most famous poems is about vowels, in which he assigns a different colour to each one. Much has been written trying to analyse the meaning, but Rimbaud himself said it had none, that he was just experimenting with ideas and sounds. Here it is in the original, followed by a literal translation.

Both the original French and the English versions can be found

Poets from around the World #2 - Thomas Hardy (Dorset , England)

We were also entertained with grand performances of poems. One of which was Thomas Hardy's The Ruined Maid. Unfortunately we have no recording of this but I have put some links below for you to look at.

The Ruined Maid by Thomas Hardy. Hardy was born in 1840 in Dorset and was a Novelist and poet. More information about him can be found here

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Poets from around the World #1 - Edgar Allan Poe (Boston, US)

Recently the Preston Poets were asked to give a talks on Poets of the World at the Brownedge Festival. This is the first of the poets for you to read about.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) by Gwen Weiss

Edgar Allan Poe was born in Massachusetts USA on 19th January 1809. He was the son of travelling actors David and Elizabeth Arnold Poe. His father, an alcoholic, deserted the family which included a brother and a sister, and his mother died when he was two years old, and Poe was fostered by a prosperous Scottish merchant, John Allan, in Richmond.

Allan always refused to adopt Poe which led to bad feeling between them. The family moved to Scotland for a time and also lived in England returning to America in 1820. He fell in love with Sarah Elmira Royston but lost touch with her when he was at university.

Despite considerable academic success, after one year at the University of Virginia, his gambling debts forced him to leave, and by 1827 Poe with typical restlessness had moved from Boston to Richmond and then back to Boston again. On learning that Sarah had married he joined the army by saying he was twenty two although he was only eighteen and gained a good reputation, which he joined in 1827, but spent a miserable year at the US Military academy at West Point in 1930 before being dishonourably discharged, which he had deliberately engineered and it was at this point John Allan washed his hands of him.

He stayed in Baltimore from 1831 – 35 and began writing more seriously, working as a journalist earning a bare minimum on which to survive and from 1835 he began to edit the Southern Literary Messenger, from which he was sacked for being drunk. He was involved with several magazines thereafter and in 1836 he secretly married his 13 year-old cousin Virginia, her age being recorded on the marriage certificate as twenty -one. He later married her again in a large public ceremony.

Around this time he turned to writing short stories which revealed a fascination with emotional extremes, particularly fear, though his essays show that he was capable of being objective and critical. His early fiction tales, starring the fictitious detective C. Auguste Dupin laid the groundwork for future detectives in literature and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said of his work that ‘ Each (of Poe’s detective stories) is a root from which a whole literature has developed…where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?’ The Mystery Writers of America have named their awards for excellence in the genre as ‘the Edgars.’

He was also admired by Jules Verne and H,G. Wells for his science fiction work.

In 1844 he moved to New York but despite popular acclaim his life was still wretched and remained poor. Virginia died of tuberculosis in 1847 and Poe, still poor and an alcoholic died in Baltimore two years later aged just forty.

As well as admirers, it seems that he also made enemies because after his death a long obituary in the New York Tribune, signed by a man using the pen name Ludwig, stated ‘ Edgar Allen Poe is dead…This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it.’. He was soon identified as a Rufus Wilmot Griswold, an editor, critic and anthologist who had borne a grudge against Poe since 1842, and he set out to destroy Poe’s reputation after his death. He wrote a biographical article ‘Memoir of an Author’ depicting Poe as a depraved , drunk, drug addled, madman and included letters purported to have been written by the author. This biography sold well but was denounced by people who knew the victim well, and was later proved to be made up of lies and the letters were forgeries.

Conversely his work was often criticised by such as Ralph Waldo Emmerson who said of his work ‘The Raven,’ a poem which made him a household name , “ I see nothing in it.”; Aldous Huxley wrote that Poe’s work ‘falls into vulgarity by being too poetical - the equivalent of wearing a diamond ring on every finger.’

Many of his poems are very long and personally I found them flowery and difficult to follow but I enjoyed his rather macabre short stories such as ‘Murder in the Rue Morgue,’ ‘The Pit and the Pendulum,’ and ‘The Purloined Letter, this last demonstrating his interest in ciphers.’

The Poem read on the evening was "To My Mother" and other poems can be found here along with more information here