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Sunday, 8 February 2009

Arthur Rimbaud Drift

AN ARTHUR RIMBAUD DRIFT is a poetic walk following the London trail of Arthur Rimbaud and his fellow poet Paul Verlaine, who first visited the English capital - which they called Leun Deun - in September 1872.

The route goes from Charing Cross Station, where the poets arrived, through French Soho, where they first lived, and ends up at the legendary 8 Royal College Street where they had a proto-surrealist bust-up over a fish.

Poet Niall McDevitt has gleaned the great biographies of Rimbaud by Enid Starkie, Jean-Luc Steinmetz, Charles Nicholls and Graham Robb, as well as Joanna Richardsons' excellent biography of Verlaine, and has mapped out many of the most significant Rimbaud/Verlaine sites.

It is worth remembering that of Rimbaud's meteorically brief literary career, 14 months were spent in London, that he wrote some of A Season in Hell in London, most of Illuminations, and that the latter is one of the city's outstanding literary landmarks, a modernist classic 50 years before modernism.

The walk traces the poets' doomed quest to 're-invent love' as well as Rimbaud's later sojourn with the poet Germain Nouveau, his falling ill, and his being rescued by his mother, the terrifying 'Shadow Mouth'. We also find out about Verlaine's truimphant return to London in the 1890s where he was feted as the prince of the Decadents.

For a preview of the tour, tune into the Robert Elms Show BBC LONDON on February 18 at 1.40.

Sun 22 February meeting at 2pm by the Eleanor Cross in the forecourt of Charing Cross station. £5/£3(unwaged) (Please note: this walk will take a few hours and cover a few miles on its course to the Rimbaud/Verlaine House in Royal College Street. Please bring ideal overcoats, ideal footwear, ideal sandwiches, ideal beverages etc. Treat it as pilgimage.)

The Stolen Heart

My sad heart slobbers at the poop
Yellowy with tobacco stains.
Now they're squirting their jets of soup!
My sad heart slobbers at the poop
As the ball-breaking of the troops
Has them guffawing on the main.
My sad heart slobbers at the poop
Yellowy with tobacco stains.

Ithyphallic and belligerent,
Their ball-breaking has depraved it.
The rudder's daubed in smutty paint,
Ithyphallic and belligerent.
Abracadabraesque waves are sent
To cleanse my heart and save it;
Ithyphallic and belligerent,
Their ball-breaking has depraved it.

When they have spat out their plugs,
Oh stolen heart, what can we do
To please these Rabelaisian slugs
When they have spat out their plugs?
My stomach will dredge up the glugs
Into the bilge-wells of this stew...
When they have spat out their plugs,
Oh stolen heart, what can we do?

poem by Arthur Rimbaud; version by Niall McDevitt

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