Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Banned Poetry #2

Charles Baudelaire was, if anything, a contrarian. He began his writing career as an art critic and translator of Edgar Allen Poe's works. His full-length book of poetry, Les Fleurs du mal, was first printed in 1857. Almost immediately, six poems were called out for obscenity because their subject matter included lesbianism and vampires (Twilight fans, take note). Baudelaire oversaw a second printing in 1861 which included both new work and the contested six poems, in defiance of the law which forbade their printing.

Baudelaire wrote gritty, anti-romantic poems which sought to capture the truth of his urban Parisian environment. He was the first to put a name to what he was writing: prose poems...not poetry, not exactly prose, but a murky somewhere-in-between genre which matched well with his murky, contrary lifestyle.

To experience Baudelaire for yourself, including those six banned poems, check out Fleurs du Mal, a comprehensive site dedicated to the famous book and all its incarnations. Each table of contents links to the original poem in French, as well as various translated versions. Be sure to also check out the great list of links, including Baudelaire sites in French, Czech, and Portuguese, along with a link to watercolor interpretations of his work.

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