Poetry Death Match: Whitman V. Rimbaud

Who will win this death match?

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:

WALT WHITMAN:

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.  

ARTHUR RIMBAUD:

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 EnferDélires I: Vierge FolleL’Époux Infernal

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  • The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
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Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.

A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.

Rethinking humanity's origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."

Migrating out of Africa

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.

Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.

The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.

The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.

Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.

Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.

Did we head east or south of Eden?

Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.

Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.