Though some poems I loved when I was young have lost their sting over the years, Rimbaud’s ‘The Drunken Boat’ still exhilarates me as much as it ever did.

Donna Tartt, The New York Times

Arthur Rimbaud

Before he permanently gave up poetry at the age of twenty-one, Arthur Rimbaud (1854–1891) created some of the finest French verse in history. Son of a domineering mother, Rimbaud was a brilliant student who became unruly and rebellious in his teenage years, joining the Paris Commune of 1871 and entering a torrid affair with the poet Paul Verlaine. After composing the brilliant prose poetry of A Season in Hell and the groundbreaking Illuminations, Rimbaud left France for Java and Abyssinia, where he worked under the employ of various trading companies until returning to France to have his right leg amputated in Marseille. He died at the age of thirty-seven under the watch of his sister, Isabelle.

cover image of the book A Season in Hell & The Drunken Boat

A Season in Hell & The Drunken Boat

by Arthur Rimbaud

Translated by Louise Varese

With a contribution by Patti Smith

New Directions is pleased to announce the relaunch of the long-celebrated bilingual edition of Rimbaud’s A Season In Hell & The Drunken Boat — a personal poem of damnation as well as a plea to be released from “the examination of his own depths.” Rimbaud originally distributed A Season In Hell to friends as a self-published booklet, and soon afterward, at the age of nineteen, quit poetry altogether. New Directions’ edition was among the first to be published in the U.S., and quickly became a classic. Rimbaud’s famous poem “The Drunken Boat” was subsequently added to the first paperbook printing. Allen Ginsberg proclaimed Arthur Rimbaud as “the first punk” — a visionary mentor to the Beats for both his recklessness and his fiery poetry. This new edition proudly dons the original Alvin Lustig designed cover, and a introduction by another famous rebel — and now National Book Award-winner — Patti Smith.

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cover image of the book Illuminations


The prose poems of the great French Symbolist, Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891), have acquired enormous prestige among readers everywhere and have been a revolutionary influence on poetry in the twentieth century. They are offered here both in their original texts and in superb English translations by Louise Varèse. Mrs. Varèse first published her versions of Rimbaud’s Illuminations in 1946. Since then she has revised her work and has included two poems which in the interim have been reclassified as part of Illuminations. This edition also contains two other series of prose poems, which include two poems only recently discovered in France, together with an introduction in which Miss Varèse discusses the complicated ins and outs of Rimbaldien scholarship and the special qualities of Rimbaud’s writing. Rimbaud was indeed the most astonishing of French geniuses. Fired in childhood with an ambition to write, he gave up poetry before he was twenty-one. Yet he had already produced some of the finest examples of French verse. He is best known for A Season in Hell, but his other prose poems are no less remarkable. While he was working on them he spoke of his interest in hallucinations––“des vertiges, des silences, des nuits.” These perceptions were caught by the poet in a beam of pellucid, and strangely active language which still lights up––now here, now there––unexplored aspects of experience and thought.

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Though some poems I loved when I was young have lost their sting over the years, Rimbaud’s ‘The Drunken Boat’ still exhilarates me as much as it ever did.

Donna Tartt, The New York Times

One of the greatest poets who ever lived.


If we are absolutely modern — and we are — it is because Rimbaud commanded us to be.

John Ashbery
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