Saturday, April 21, 2012

Passion and Madness

I've been drinking cheap red wine in the bathtub which means that this will be more maudlin and romantic then I mean it to be. It never fails. Give me a bottle of red wine and I will write you sonnets. Or at least feverishly slave away with words like the great poets of old. I wonder what's in the wine to make me do that.

I'm reading a book about reading (my favorite subject) and the author is talking about poets. Not just any poets but the masters of romanticism. Rimbaud, Verlaine, Baudelaire. Poets that I used to read (in translation of course) and dream of passion and madness. Years ago I bought a greeting card that had the phrase "passion is a form of madness". I bought it for the saying. I was a young romantic. I wanted that passion. I wanted to be that starving artist living in a garret, selling poems to buy cheap red wine and a meal that night. Some night (like tonight) I still do.

But as I read this book I remembered a picture. I don't know if I've posted it here before and I know that tonight I won't be able to describe why this photo pierced my soul. Why I printed a copy and moved it from house to house. Why it used to sit above my writing desk. The simplest explanation is that this photo (by Felix Nadar in 1856) captured the passion and madness of Charles Baudelaire. I've loved this photo my entire life. From the moment I first saw it I loved it. I knew I needed to have a copy. I can't really explain way. It's terrible quality. It's blurry and odd, but I love it. Something about it speaks to me. And some days I understand what it's saying.

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