Reader’s Corner: Rimbaud in Ethiopia

The legend of Arthur Rimbaud (1854–1891) is an intoxicating one. He started writing young, and by the time he was done at 21 years of age, had quite possibly changed Western literature forever. Poems like The Drunken Boat ripped something open in the era’s creative mindset:

If there is one water in Europe I want, it is the
Black cold pool where into the scented twilight
A child squatting full of sadness, launches
A boat as fragile as a butterfly in May…

Rimbaud also led the poetic lifestyle that many adolescents would dream to emulate. He debauched, he innovated, he caroused, he blazed forth briefly and brilliantly, he defined libertine.

He also may have changed history.

Rimbaud in Harar, Ethiopia (self-portrait, c. 1883)

After a dustup with his lover, poet Paul Verlaine, in which Verlaine ended up shooting him, Rimbaud left France. In 1880, he washed up in, all of all places, the ancient trading city of Harar in Ethiopia. There, Rimbaud changed from dangerously licentious artiste to jack-of-all-goods trader. He even became an arms dealer, at one point agreeing to secure weapons for Ethiopia’s emperor, Menelik II, who apparently swindled Rimbaud out of the money he was promised.

According to Rachel Doyle:

Frustration aside, Rimbaud’s procurement of weapons for Menelik II may have been his greatest contribution to modern African history. Scholars reckon that the guns he sold in 1887 likely helped the emperor defeat Italy in 1896 when the country’s troops tried to invade Ethiopia. As a result of the rout at Adwa, Italy signed a treaty recognizing Ethiopia as an independent nation…

It’s not every poet who is still remembered over a century after their death. And it’s certainly not every poet who might have changed the course of world history.

Writer’s Corner: Publish Your Poetry

Walt Whitman (Library of Congress)
Walt Whitman (Library of Congress)

If you’re a poet, you’ve already most likely resigned yourself to a career filled with penury and frustration. Fortunately, every now and again, there comes a rare chance to make some money as a poet and (quelle surprise) actually get published in a format that ensures people who aren’t family and friends will read you.

According to Poets & Writers, The Academy of American Poets is making a couple changes to their Walt Whitman Award, which “is given to an emerging poet who has not yet published a book.” It’s now “the most valuable first-book award for poetry in the United States.”

Check it out:

In addition to a $5,000 cash prize, the winner of the 2015 award will receive publication of his or her manuscript by Graywolf Press, and a six-week all-expenses-paid residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Umbria, Italy.

So get your pencils and poetic sensibilities sharpened. Submission guidelines are here.

By the way, this is what the Civitella Ranieri looks like. Good luck.