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
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.