Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Staying afloat on a drunken boat

Decadent French poet Arthur Rimbaud came to Ethiopia (then Abyssinia) in 1880, settling in the eastern city of Harar. There, in the walled maze of crowded alleyways, he worked as a merchant, trading such fine exports as coffee, weapons, and infamously- slaves. He mysteriously gave up his bohemian french poetry scene and his tumultuous relationship with Verlaine, with the hopes of striking it rich in a city that was certainly even more chaotic then, than it is now. Rimbaud spent over 10 years in Abyssinia -having little contact with anyone back in France, until he developed a tumour in his leg, which he eventually died from after a failed amputation on Nov 10th 1891, at the ripe old age of 37.

Now, I'm no Rimbaud, (despite my teenage obsession), but the similarities of my own current state to that of Rimbaud's in Ethiopia are somewhat distrurbing. One might say that I gave up on Calgary's poetry community ages ago, without even actually having been a part of it. I certainly have had my own share of screaming bohemian relationship dramas -as Bob Dylan would sing, "Oh, mine have been like Verlaine's and Rimbauuuud!". And, let's not forget the crucial similarity, that here I lie in my very own little worn and weathered hotel bed in Ethiopia, with a large lump on my ankle, bruised foot, alone and somewhat immobile, much like Rimbaud at the end of his days.

Though I'm certain Rimbaud (who due to his respect and influence within the Harari community at the time, was chummy with the Governor of Harar, Ras Makonnen, -father of future Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, better known worldwide as the dude who Rastafarians worship and sing songs about while smokin' Ganja), had a bit more of a crazy decadent time here; housekeeper/concubines from the Somali coast, most probably a pet Hyena or two (perhaps that's an exaggeration), endless Qat plants to chew on and become psychotically intoxicated with -while I have spent most of my time simply drinking coffee and eating alot of sour Injera bread, alone.

Still though, I like to keep the flame of inspiration alive, and pay homage when I can - even if its unintentional (the lame foot, and all). Tonight I think am going to drink some 80 cent beer and read Rimbaud, cursing the world for not appreciating my genius. Or something. Yes. Or, better yet, try and download a copy of "Rimbaud in Abyssinia" ( a biography of our decadent poets life at that time), onto my Kobo (which is certainly far more bourgoisie than anything Rimbaud would have done). Also, I'm fairly certain that I won't need any amputations for my sprained ankle, touch wood (or the services of any concubines) while I'm here, so maybe this whole comparision is downright absurd.  Also, I am in the capital of Addis Ababa, not Harar. Also, I have no plan of making money here.

Maybe I just really am getting bored of laying in bed, and am daydreaming myself into frenzy, because I have nothing else to do.

"And from that time on I bathed in the Poem
Of the Sea, star-infused and churned into milk,
Devouring the green azures; where, entranced in pallid flotsam,
A dreaming drowned man sometimes goes down;

Where, suddenly dyeing the bluenesses, deliriums
And slow rhythms under the gleams of the daylight,
Stronger than alcohol, vaster than music
Ferment the bitter rednesses of love!

I have come to know the skies splitting with lightnings, and the waterspouts
And the breakers and currents; I know the evening,
And Dawn rising up like a flock of doves,
And sometimes I have seen what men have imagined they saw!

I have seen the low-hanging sun speckled with mystic horrors.
Lighting up long violet coagulations,
Like the performers in very-antique dramas
Waves rolling back into the distances their shiverings of venetian blinds!

I have dreamed of the green night of the dazzled snows
The kiss rising slowly to the eyes of the seas,
The circulation of undreamed-of saps,
And the yellow-blue awakenings of singing phosphorus!

I have followed, for whole months on end, the swells
Battering the reefs like hysterical herds of cows,
Never dreaming that the luminous feet of the Marys
Could force back the muzzles of snorting Oceans!

I have struck, do you realize, incredible Floridas
Where mingle with flowers the eyes of panthers
In human skins! Rainbows stretched like bridles
Under the seas' horizon, to glaucous herds!

I have seen the enormous swamps seething, traps
Where a whole leviathan rots in the reeds!
Downfalls of waters in the midst of the calm
And distances cataracting down into abysses!"

- Arthur Rimbaud, "The drunken boat"

Arthur Rimbaud, on the far right

Me... pretending to be Rimbaud.

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