About two years ago I came across Charles Baudelaire when doing some research on Huysmans (I might have to write about him later). At first I didn’t know what to do with this guy so I just let him sit on the back burner for a bit. Then, as if by some strange coincidence hmmm, I wandered into my local used book store and lo and behold what do I find? A small selection of Baudelaire’s works in a tiny little paperback. I remember thinking the universe is surely talking to me today, so I bought that book without a second thought.
Later that day I found myself out having a bite to eat and I started reading the introduction to the volume. Imagine my surprise to find myself instantly drawn to this guy as I started reading about his life.
Now Baudelaire is considered one of the founders of the French Decadent movement of the 19th century. He is known to have influenced a great many French writers and others around the world.
I think many people nowadays could also relate with the Decadent movement. Even though we are a couple decades in to another century I feel we are in a period before a greater period. A chaotic time that is flipping the world upside down before a greatness comes upon the world. People are going crazy, becoming overly decadent in manners and life, wars and peace movements, on and on.
His most important work in my opinion is Les Fleurs Du Mal. This version linked above was translated by Richard Howard and in my opinion is excellent. The part I love the most is that it is a dual language edition too. This of course was the first volume I bought after reading that little paperback I found at the bookstore. My copy is of course now covered in underlines and observational notes which makes it even more valuable to me now.
I recently just bought Complete Poems: Charles Baudelaire and am waiting for it to come in the mail. I am curious how the rest of his works compare to Les Fleurs Du Mal. Hopefully I will have a write up of it in the future.
Sorry for the aside, books are a passion for me, but back to the point. How did he influence me. After reading his poems I had at hand I really started internalizing his viewpoints, his use of symbolism, sexual themes at times. Took those and started writing my own poems. Many of those poems will appear in my second book when it comes out.
I have always had many of these themes in my writing before but what he really did for me was give me a new direction to go, a new way to combine my thoughts. Once I started reading him I also took an interest in writing poetic prose as well.
I was literally quite excited to start putting pen to paper after and while reading him. I find myself occasionally going back to reread poems of his just to get into a feeling. He is just that inspirational.
Give yourself that opportunity as well. Go get one of his works listed above or head to the public library and see if he can be found there. I guarantee you won’t be sorry.