cover image A Season in Hell

A Season in Hell

Arthur Rimbaud, , trans. from the French by Donald Revell. . Omnidawn, $14.95 (103pp) ISBN 978-1-890650-30-8

As a wild, drug-taking teen in the 1870s, Rimbaud helped engender modern poetry. This dizzying, brilliant, blasphemous last book of mostly prose poems explores his angers, gratitudes and regrets about the visions and erotic transports celebrated in earlier poems. Revell (Pennyweight Windows ) is just the right kind of poet to bring something new to this familiar work; his own recent verse reflects religious visions, and he has translated Rimbaud's successor, Apollinaire. Rimbaud's verve, fascination with the forbidden, and the self-loathing that led him to give up poetry altogether come across with a confident swagger in Revell's wiry syntax. "I dance... hand-in-hand with hags and children," Rimbaud says. Sometimes Revell modernizes ("Copyright remains with me"); elsewhere he courts controversy (for the much-quoted "Il faut etre absolument moderne," Revell gives "I must"—not "One must"—"be absolutely modern"). Yet Revell's method fits Rimbaud's near-madness: the translation shows, and Revell's afterword explains, how this hallucinatory modernism jump-starts an Anglo-American tradition that leads from Blake to the present day. This is an inspired new version of a strange, harsh classic. (Apr.)