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Terreson Profile
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Charles Baudelaire


Not exactly thinking on Baudelaire this weekend, nothing so active. Maybe just meditating on him. He came to mind yesterday while responding to a prose poem a member posted. Then I read a few of his prose poems last night; story told in my Waffle House thread posted in our Field Notes forum. Now I can't shake him when I should be preparing for my date with the queen of the laundromat.

I met him years ago, almost 40 years ago. Read his poetry, his prose poetry, even read his articles on the Parisian art scene of his day, hack writing he made as a source of income. I also read Sartre's biography of him, plus other biographical material.

The lit crit techs say he is the first Modern poet. Certainly, next to Victor Hugo, he is the greatest French poet of the 19th C. It took me years to figure out why he should be called the first Modern poet. This even before Whitman and Dickinson. Again the lit crit techs say it is because he was the first Romantic to find his material in urban life, which is true. "A Romantic with the courage of Realism," as Laura Riding put it. Some of his poetry was banned, considered immoral by the authorities, ban not lifted until, I think, 1949. His lesbian poetry especially. His "dark angel" poetry, inspired by a lover, a Creole actress, last name Duval, is exquisite. Or maybe I just know the type too well. And, of course, he is credited with inventing that quintessentially modern form of poetry, the prose poem. Then there is his sonnet, Correspondences, that inspired both the younger generation of Symbolist poets and more than a few 20th C poets. Eliot especially. The funny thing about Baudelaire is that, but for the prose poetry, he worked entirely in traditional, closed form verse. Sonnet, terzanelle, villanelle, etc. Last item. He made classic the poet maudit type, the cursed poet. Last, last item. He died horribly, painfully in his mid-forties of siphyllis.

I think, as is often the case, the lit techs are wrong about him, what makes him the first Modern. Sure he drew on the urban scene. Yes, he drew out the dreariness of an industrial city's smoke blackened sky and filthy streets. Back then the new normal. In this he out-Elioted Eliot's Wasteland city of London decades before the boy from Missouri was born. (Baudelaire is sewn through and through that poem.) I suspect Baudelaire haunted Eliot. Actually I am certain of it. But the big thing is this. He was the first great Modern poet because he was the first to squarely face, unflinchingly, eyes never averted, the enormous, spiritual crisis that has attended the modern world of vast cities and values no longer spiritual but commercial. He got it. Got what the industrial, commercialized scene would do to the human spirit. Would do and has accomplished. It would reduce it to nothingness. That is what makes him the first Modern poet.

Anybody who knows my poetry must get that it is always trying to find an alternative to what I call the Bottom City Blues. For me it started when I was 22 or so, and when I first met with Baudelaire's poetry, and with his dark vision. By conventional standards he was not religious. But he was absolutely religious, the kind of religious no church has ever been able to abide by. There may have been something of the mystic in him. His Correspondences poem tells me as much. (Poem easily found on line.) In all events he got the crisis in his gut and he never veered from it, except with hashish and opium. And he despised the bourgeoisie precisely because they embraced, still do, the commercialization of, well, of everything. Human life. Nature. God. Goddess. Love. Everything. The reader of poetry cannot fully get Modern poetry until coming to terms with Baudelaire. Having him in the back of my head for all these years, finding he is as heavy back there now as was the case when I was 22, I can tell you the terms are not easy. I think I have found my personal, small alternative to his vision of things. But Baudelaire still sits heavy, damn heavy. Possibly because my alternative keeps on the run from his vision. It has to when Nature or even Gaia herself is kept on the run.

One last note perhaps. My position vis a vis so-called post-modernist poetry, even the post-modern world view is clear. Frankly, I think they are all full of !@#$, irrelevant, dated precisely because of their constant need to date themselves, compulsively needing to keep au currant. But mostly I fault them because they have backed away, turned the head, averted the eyes from his vision of the modern condition, its spiritual vacancy.

Baudelaire old budy, damn you to hell and wait for me. Sure needing Mother Nature to wrap me in her arms about now.

(Info on Baudelaire, including much of his poetry, easily accessible on line.)

Terreson

Last edited by Terreson, Jul/18/2011, 1:44 am
Jul/17/2011, 6:20 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Katlin Profile
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Re: Charles Baudelaire


There may have been something of the mystic in him. His Correspondences poem tells me as much. (Poem easily found on line.)

In fact, several historical translations as well an original translation done by Pam/Auto can be found right here on Delectable Mnts:

http://bdelectablemnts.runboard.com/t1069

That thread is definitely worth a read by anyone interested in the poem. emoticon
Jul/18/2011, 2:36 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: Charles Baudelaire


There must be a name for you, Kat, somewhere in some Native American language. She-of-the-long-memory is how it would translate. You amaze me.

Just reread my post of yesterday. Words of a poet who has spent a long, long time meditating on his source. I've surprised myself.

Tere
Jul/18/2011, 6:13 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Charles Baudelaire


Found the link to this article on Baudelaire, more like a monograph actually. It explores at length, and in depth, Baudelaire viewed as the first Modern poet. If nothing else, and assuming the interest, read section one. The critic's comprehensions strike me as prettty much spot on. When I think on it I am prepared to say that the whole course of poetry chased down since Baudelaire, at least in the West, amounts to bodying out the details of what first and foremost possessed Baudelaire. Unease. Unease with what? With everything. With cities, religion, love, relationships (all relationships), and with the self. All of which is set in the context of the modern condition, which condition amounted to Baudelaire's vision of hell. Mine too actually. In an odd and maybe perverse way I find strength in Baudelaire, even a measure of succor, certainly a measure of affirmation telling me I am not the crazy one here.

http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/French/VoyageToModernitypage.htm

Tere
Jul/19/2011, 2:28 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Charles Baudelaire


Having taken the day off from work because of a leg injury, wanting to keep off of it for a little, I am playing around.

Kat, I pulled up the thread you brought forward. You are right. Certainly worth the read, here on our little board. Quite a good original translation of the poem, not to mention the translator's explanation of intention and design. But I realize my current meditations on Baudelaire have not run their course.

I have this brother, a teacher with some fame, primarily a historian, a social scientist. Over a long career he has taught everything from labor economics to Russian Civ, to American South Civ, to environmental studies, to ... Ten years ago he retired from teaching and he has continued to teach courses, or programs, at his college ever since. Incredibly, students who could be his great-grand children still flock to him, sign up for his subjects. No exaggeration. For almost two decades we kept our distance from each other. He looked down on me, intellectually speaking. As is generally the case, in his eyes poets were an inferior lot. I, of course, had no choice then but to refuse to court him, even try to get him to hear how and what I think. I don't know how it happened. It might have involved a late summer afternoon's bottle of tequila, lime squeeze, a shaker of salt, and the sunset over Puget Sound. Something happened. Over night, even, he recognized me as an equal, an intellectual. He started giving me copies of the books he used in his courses, most of which I have read, soaked up. Since that bottle of tequilla ours have been some of the best conversations I've enjoyed. He challenges me, and in that up from under way a poet has I've sometimes slipped him an intellectual micky. (Story germaine to my thread.)

I think he was in his 60s by then. Not a snob exactly. But a dyed in the wool intellectual, social historian, and supreme sceptic. As is still the case with much of the academic world in America he looked down on the case of Edgar Allan Poe, at least as a cultural figure sewn into the thread of America's intellectual and artistic heritage. Me, hell, I sharpened my eye teeth on Poe before age 25. I knew in my existential gut that Poe's Gothic, what he defined as the soul's unexplained terror, was at the root of this, again, Modern unease. For my brother, for example, the antecedents of 20th C existentialist philosophy could be found in the likes of Ibsen and Dostoyevski: recognized greats in lit. Can't remember how I slipped in this particular micky. I might have said something like, well, before there was Dostoyevski there was Poe. To his credit, instead of challenging me, he said nothing, went home, read Poe from a different slant, poetry and stories, read up on Poe, finally got back to me. Still remember the look in his eyes that day. Wide eyed. An old dog shown a new trick. He got the modernism of Poe who mostly worked alone in a provincial America and before the Civil War. He got the gnawing of Poe's vision, what he saw, amounting to that same unexplainable terror gnawing at every modern man and woman's soul. We didn't much talk about it. Some things you cannot really intellectualize.

Baudelaire was translating Poe into French in the 1850s. By then Poe was less than ten years dead. He translated stories, poetry, and an unfinished novel involving a sea voyage that stops in the antipodes, at the end of the then known planet. Novel especially impacted Baudelaire. Always he would return to the metaphor of the sea voyage. Because of Baudelaire Poe hugely impacted French writers and poets. No later than the beginning of the last quarter of the 19th C. his greatness was recognized by, first, the French, then by other writers and poets of the continent. Not an exaggeration. Record is clear, case documented. Here is the kicker. Baudelaire said of Poe he is "my twin soul." Think on it. In Poe, the provincial, Baudelaire, strictly trained in the classics, finds his "fraternal brother." The poet in whom his dark, unsetttling, realistic vision of both future and present finds resonance and reply.

Here is my problem. Recently I learned my brother, in the fall, will teach a course on mid and late 19th C English lit and poetry. Browning got mentioned. I'm guessing Elizabeth Barret gets included. Tennyson, Swinbourne, Mathew Arnold too. Possibly the poetry of Thomas Hardy. I've read them, at least enough to take note of their means and preoccupations. But not, in one case, sensing they speak to me. Dante speaks to me more than they do, that supreme realist who found the world he experienced in Inferno. Villon speaks to me, writing some 800 years ago. On the other hand, in the same time frame, writing on the continental side of the Channel, there is this poet maudit, Baudelaire, classically trained, staring down filthy alleyways, staring down the filth of the modern soul, looking for beauty, his ideal, yet refusing the lies involved in language and sensibility. That's it. The big thing I take from Baudelaire. Refusing the lies involved in language and sensibility.

Resolved. Leave my brother alone on this one. Cut the great man slack.

Tere
Jul/19/2011, 5:23 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


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