Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Rimbaud, A Season in Hell

In euphemistic language we refer to those artists who tread the line between genius and madness, as people living "ahead of their time." I believe otherwise. I believe Rimbaud was a person from an earlier time, a poet akin to our original seers, the kavis of the Vedas, those prophets who expressed hidden truths through the perceptions of their senses and the movements of the world. Whose modes of seeing were associated with the experience of light, who connected the worlds of the Gods and the humans, and whose words had the power to enlighten because they were timeless and infinite. In Rimbaud's case, it was not merely the possession of an almost divine dhi, or "insight", which he might have spuriously spurred on with the abuse of absinthe, hashish, opium, or some other mind-altering soma. His was a case of questioning the ready-made code of morals that were handed down to him by society, questioning the definitions of obscenity, scraping away the pretensions and restoring purity.
The idea here is that the distinctions of the things that are pure/ polluting, sacred/ profane, clean/ unclean are artificial human constructs, and that to break bondage with this kind of world, one must confront their fears and release themselves from the inhibitions they create. And so the drunken boat weaves its way through the seas of the world seeing "what men have imagined they saw ... archipelagos of stars!/ and islands whose delirious skies are open to sailors."
Rimbaud remains in my mind as that mystical "thief of fire", crossing physical landscapes of surreal proportions in times fraught with danger. I see him striving to detach his mind from the "mud of memory", oscillating between a touching sense of optimism and a general despair for the human condition. I see him on his pursuit to the "great unmasking of modernity", penning grown-up thoughts on the future of poetry to his friend. The future of poetry remains the same: perceiving the world, speaking the truth. The Hindu Literary Review Sunday, Dec 07, 2003
Tishani Doshi is a poet and dancer t_doshi@hotmail.com

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