Claude Jeancolas says that when you begin reading Rimbaud, you enter into a world you could not have imagined beforehand.
I call the nice lady at the French bookstore in San Francisco, but I can barely croak out what I'm looking for. Will she suspect?
I score a stack pass to the library at U. C. Berkeley: eleven shelves of books about Rimbaud. I take them out eight at a time.
I look for stuff on him in the bookstores on Telegraph Avenue. Here's a biography with a photo of the manuscript of Voyelles. I put my hand over it and I start to shake. In Yoruba religion this is called fluido, tipsy: the first stage of spirit possession.
Jeancolas was in the British Museum the first time he was allowed to hold one of Rimbaud's manuscripts. "I trembled," he relates. "I couldn't even see. I told them I would have to come back the next day to read it."
|I'm up till 3, 4, 5 in the morning, reading, writing, translating:|
Against a snow, a high-statured Being of Beauty.|
Whistlings of death and circles of hollow music make this adored body rise, enlarge, and tremble like a ghost; black and scarlet wounds burst in the superb flesh. The true colors of life deepen, dance, and disengage around the Vision in the making. Shudders rise and rumble, and the mad flavour of these effects takes on the mortal whistling and the raucous music which the world, far behind us, hurls toward our mother of beauty, - She recoils, she rears up. Oh! Our bones are clothed in an amorous new body ...
I'm wandering around inside his head. I want to embrace his suffering, transform it somehow. But we all know the term for that...
Have I become the codependent of a discarnate entity?
I find a French web site that calls Patti Smith "the inheritor of Rimbaud's experiences." I fly into a rage.
"Just 'cause you're skinny! Just 'cause Robert Maplethunk took nekkid pictures of you! Just 'cause you crawled around the floor on Saturday Night Live!"
But you gotta give her credit. She went to the cemetery in Charleville. It was closed, so she climbed over the spiked iron fence, lit incense, and sang on his grave. For which she spent the night in jail. I couldn't climb over a fence... I could maybe slip something under the fence... A candle?... A brownie!
"Honest, officer, He made me do it....Him over there...."
I call Omi, my Yoruba teacher. "I was reading a book on Vodoun by Karen Brown, the anthropologist. She says she was contacted by one of their deities, Ogou, who wanted to marry her. Do we have anything like that in our religion?"
"I've never heard of such a thing. Our relationship with spirit is always completely platonic."
I never do anything the way I'm supposed to...
If this all sounds weird to you, believe me, it sounds weird to me too. For all I know, this is just some undocumented side effect of hormone
replacement therapy on postmenopausal women.|
On the other hand, when you consider the guys I've tended to get hung up on, it's probably just as well that this time I've chosen one who's been dead for a hundred years...
Mistress of Folklore|
Holly Tannen teaches folklore and anthropology, and has lectured on
contemporary magic at U.C. Berkeley and at Yale University. Her recordings
include "Invocation", "Between the Worlds", and "Rime of the Ancient
All text, translations, and songs copyright © 2001-2004 by Holly Tannen