Poetry Death Match: Whitman V. Rimbaud
Who will win this death match?
The more important question is this: who will lose?
The losing poet doesn’t get to appear in the next round of this tournament. Even if he or she is dead, he or she will be very disappointed if you don’t take 30 seconds and vote for he or she in the comments below. So do it (but read the offerings first). The elimination round starts now.
Sp who’s up? Walt Whitman (fighting for America, something that would make Uncle Walt very proud) Vs. Arthur Rimbaud (fighting for France, something that would appall him).
The subject this death match is centered around is..(and why not?) homoeroticism (Who does it better: France vs. U.S?)
Note: Rimbaud is playing a road game, competing not in his native French, but via English translation! On the other hand, since this is an English-language website for smart people, presenting Rimbaud in the original might just bias our readers slightly enough to vote for him, whether they know French or not — oh, we Americans…so easily intimidated!
So Here goes:
The love of the Body of man or woman balks account—the body itself balks account;
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect.
The expression of the face balks account;
But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face;
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips and wrists;
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees—dress does not hide him;
The strong, sweet, supple quality he has, strikes through the cotton and flannel;
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more;
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side.
Leaves of Grass.
He says: “I don’t like women. Love must be re-invented, that’s certain. All they do is long for security. Once gained, heart and beauty are set aside: only cold disdain remains, the fodder of marriage, nowadays. Or else I see women, with the marks of happiness, whom I could have made into fine comrades, devoured from the start by brutes as sensitive as posts…”
I listen to him make infamy of glory, charm of cruelty. “I’m of a distant race: my forefathers were Scandinavian: they slashed their sides, drank their own blood. – I’ll make cuts all over; I’ll tattoo myself, I long to be hideous as a Mongol: you’ll see, I’ll scream in the streets. I want to be mad with rage. Never show me gems, I’d crawl on the carpet and writhe. My treasure, I’d like to be stained all over with blood. I’ll never work…” On several nights, his demon seized me; we rolled about, I wrestled him! – At night, often, drunk, he lies in wait in the streets or houses, to frighten me to death. – “They’ll cut my throat, truly; it will be ‘disgusting’.” Oh, those days when he chooses to stroll about like a criminal!
Sometimes he speaks in a kind of tender patois, of death which brings repentance, of the wretches who must exist, of painful toil, and partings that rend hearts. In the hovels where we used to get drunk together, he would weep to see those around us, wretched cattle. He would help to their feet the drunks in dark alleys. He’d a wicked mother’s pity for little children. – He’d go about with the air of a little girl on the way to her catechism. – He feigned all knowledge, of commerce, art, medicine. – I followed him, I have to!
Une Saison en Enfer: Délires I: ViergeFolle, L’Époux Infernal