RE: RARA-AVIS: Hard-boiled Poetry (was:One hell of a weekend)

From: Etienne Borgers (
Date: 08 Sep 2000

--- Mark Sullivan <> wrote:
> Mathew asked:
> "is there hardboiled poetry??"
> Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal? Gunrunner Arthur
> Rimbaud's A Season in
> Hell? Michael Madsen's Burning in Paradise?

Even by accepting a very large meaning for the label hard-boiled applied to literature, I really do not think that Rimbaud or Baudelaire qualifies (by their lives, yes certainly, as they were either adventurer( Rimbaud) or mean an though ( Baudelaire). Both revolutionised modern poetry during the 19th century, and both were the typical "counterculture" of their times, in their own individualistic ways. But their poetry itself was certainly not hard-boiled, even if some part could show real tough descriptions.

Speaking of Baudelaire, one of his other merits was to make Edgar Allan Poe known in Europe by his masterful translations into French of Poe's short stories and of some of his poems. Baudelaire's translations are works of art by themselves (not diminishing Poe's merit, of course).

Back to HB, I could suggest another poet who really qualifies as HB, by his life and by his work: Francois Villon. He lived in Paris during the middle of the 15th century, was a university student and a
"truand", lived the life of the outlaws and his own life was at risk many times. In his poems he depicts the misery of life and fate, the tragic destinies of the culprits when caught, life in taverns and bordellos... And he was using some slang in his writings. Some of his poems like: La Ballade des Pendus (Ballad for the hanging men) or his Testament (The Will), still resonates meaningfully into our times.

Another French (well, he was a Belgian actually) that could qualify is Henri Michaux (born in 1899) by his forceful descriptions of his own surreal world, and his total destruction of reality. In texts that defies any classification but that can be accepted as poems. Tough, quick, and destructive of social conventions.

He found his inspiration by, under others, visiting far countries like an explorer of the extreme, but on a shoestring budget. Exacerbated individualist, he was never part of any literary movement or chapel. Check "A Barbarian in Asia" or "The Inside Space". He was also a painter, later in his life.

Other area to search: the poets of the Paris Commune, in 1871's Paris- after the German invasion and victory of 1870-(Commune = time of the insurrection of the working class helped by craftsmen, educators and some intellectuals that created the first political Libertarian regime, derived from the Anarchy movements
-nothing to do with the modern American meaning of this word- Commune as a word covers also the terrible official repression that followed the coming back of the traditional govt by its army and with mass executions of the population) There you have real hard-boiled texts, by all means, especially poems and some songs written during this period...

But I hear already Bill Denton knocking on the door as I probably stretched the HB search too far...

E.Borgers Hard-boiled Mysteries Polar Noir

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