Like many fiction writers I have an embarrassing folder buried deep in a basement trunk filled with poems from my overly romanticized college years. Here I share one of the few without arcane classical allusions. The subject is the French poet Arthur Rimbaud, a charismatic draw for a nascent tortured writer, a hoped-for kindred soul. The hallucinating prose of the “boy poet” deranged the senses in a way my far more rigid rational mind can still only dream about. I wrote this paean to him when I was nineteen, the age that Rimbaud gave up writing completely after achieving fame and notoriety with epics such as Une Saison en Enfer. He went to Africa and became an explorer, a trader, and gun-runner. That he ended up in Harar, Ethiopia, the coffee city often spelled Harrar, may have also carried an unconscious appeal to me.


the young egoist

confident of his genius

reflecting the illumination

the focused illusion of symbols


the mad wanderer

roaming the countryside

a taste of absinthe

lingering in the mind

seeking life for his poems


eyes rheumy-red

hair wisped in wild madness

a passion godly lit

in sensuous disorder


the hands created to disturb life

the body destined to receive strife

the mind never to write of it again


the tortured soul

dying in the agony of being once beautiful

George Harrar is the author of two novels for adults, including the literary mystery The Spinning Man. Among his dozen published short stories, “The 5:22” won the prestigious Carson McCullers Prize and was selected for The Best American Short Stories 1999. Harrar lives west of Boston with his wife, Linda, a documentary filmmaker. Their son, Tony, was the inspiration for Harrar’s award-winning novel for middle-grade readers titled Parents Wanted, published by Milkweed Editions. His adult novel Reunion at Red Paint Bay was published by Other Press in January 2013.


This article was originally published in the April 2013 edition of the Other Press newsletter. Click here to subscribe.