My Life In Books: Selene Mortimore

A Season In Hell // Arthur Rimbaud

Strictly speaking, ‘A Season In Hell’ is a poem: a very, very long, nine-part poem. Much like ‘Paradise Lost,’ it’s a poem that is long enough to be published into a small book – this could be considered cheating, but it’s a total loophole.

‘A Season In Hell’ is possibly Arthur Rimbaud’s most important work, and also arguably the last ever poem the young poet ever wrote. The poem is structured into nine different parts, all-varying in length. I’ve been interested in the libertine poets work for a while, and ‘A Season In Hell’ is a wonderful introduction to Rimbaud. The poem itself touches upon some difficult topics, such as personal morality and the narrator’s own personal death and descent to Hell. Of course, there are many themes that make up the poem, and the mood switches in different parts from an almost resigned, acceptance of Hell to what could possibly be described as enlightenment. What makes ‘A Season In Hell’ so interesting, despite the richness in imagery and the way it doesn’t necessarily flow easily (Rimbaud was often extremely intoxicated and didn’t stop when writing – I would actually recommend drinking a glass of wine or two when reading anything by Rimbaud), it can sometimes feel a bit like attempting Ulysses. If you’re up for a bit of a challenge then this is such a good poem to read.

Words by Selene Mortimore

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