The Letters of the Seer  

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"To arrive at the unknown through the disordering of all the senses, that's the point." --"The Letters of the Seer " (1871) by Arthur Rimbaud

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"The Letters of the Seer" (original French Les lettres du voyant) refer to two letters by Arthur Rimbaud, written in May 1871. One was written to Georges Izambard, a second to Paul Demeny. In both Rimbaud proclaimed that he wanted to become a "voyant", a seer.

The letters also feature a radical critique of Western poetry since antiquity and a defense of the emergence of a new poetic reason.

The first (and shortest) of these letters was written May 13, 1871 and addressed to Georges Izambard, the former college professor of Rimbaud in Charleville. The facsimile of this letter was published for the first time, at the initiative of the recipient, in October 1928 in the Revue européenne. It contains the poem Le Cœur supplicié.

The second letter was written May 15, 1871 to the poet Paul Demeny, to whom Rimbaud had given a copy of his earlier poetry a few months earlier. Its content was revealed to the public by Paterne Berrichon in October 1912 in La Nouvelle Revue française. It contains the poems "Chant de guerre parisien", "Mes petites amoureuses" and "Accroupissements". It is also here that the now famous dictum, "Je est un autre" appeared for the first time.


To arrive at the unknown through the disordering of all the senses

In both of these letters Rimbaud says that he wants "disorder all the senses'."

In the first letter

In his letter to Izambard, Rimbaud proclaims,

Maintenant, je m'encrapule le plus possible. Pourquoi? Je veux être poète, et je travaille à me rendre voyant : vous ne comprendrez pas du tout, et je ne saurais presque vous expliquer. Il s'agit d'arriver à l'inconnu par le dérèglement de tous les sens. Les souffrances sont énormes, mais il faut être fort, être né poète, et je me suis reconnu poète. Ce n'est pas du tout ma faute. C'est faux de dire : Je pense : on devrait dire : On me pense. –Pardon du jeu de mots.-
--Lettre de Rimbaud à Georges Izambard - 13 mai 1871
[Now I am going in for debauch. Why? I want to be a poet, and I am working to make myself a visionary: you won't possibly understand, and I don't know how to explain it to you. To arrive at the unknown through the disordering of all the senses, that's the point. The sufferings will be tremendous, but one must be strong, be born a poet: it is in no way my fault. It is wrong to say: I think. One should say: I am thought. Pardon the pun.

In the second letter

Je dis qu'il faut être voyant, se faire voyant. Le poète se fait voyant par un long, immense et raisonné dérèglement de tous les sens.
Lettre de Rimbaud à Paul Demeny - 15 mai 1871
I say one must be a seer, make oneself a seer. The poet makes himself a seer by an immense, long, deliberate derangement of all the senses.
translation unidentified

See also

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