Verlaine, cell n°252 poetic en turbulence
This exhibition immerses you in the story of Verlaine and Belgium that had a profound influence on the poet of Romances sans paroles. There was Brussels, the first place of refuge on his wonderful ‘voillage avec Rimbe’ (his journey with the poet Rimbaud), then the scene of the climax of their irresistible but impossible relation. And later, there was Mons and its prison – a lonely time of uncertainty and melancholy.
Verlaine had every vice. He was a grey soul plunged by baseness into the dark, an unworthy husband who beat his wife, a notorious alcoholic, a frequenter of brothels. Above all, he was characterised by a culpable naivety. His poems no longer have to be read in secret, yet despite the hundreds of pages of his complete works in the Pléiade edition, the critics have all but forgotten him. Worse, all he is known for now is a few choice verses: the Fêtes galantes, the Romances sans paroles and the Poèmes saturniens. The rest are seen as mere religious trinkets that smack of the confessional, or the platitudes of an old writer in want of inspiration. A ‘great perverter’, as Edmond de Goncourt called him, or one of ‘les Vaincus’ – the defeated – among the bright pantheon of poetry, as others tend to believe. The book and exhibition devoted to him will seek to transform this image of an ineffectual Verlaine, and to give back to him something of what he has given to writers and to literature in general. Like an epic novel, the exhibition takes you on a ‘Verlaine journey’ around the man and his writings, using many unusual and exceptional documents. Others who played a part in his story also appear: his wife Mathilde Mauté, the judge Theodore t'Serstevens, his ‘girlfriends’ Eugénie and Philomène, contemporary Belgian men of letters such as Emile Verhaeren and Maeterlinck, but also Mallarmé, Oscar Wilde and Victor Hugo... And of course, in the shadows, Arthur Rimbaud, the beau Satan adolescent.Partners : Fondation Mons 2015, Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, Ville de Mons, le Pôle muséal de la ville de Mons et Belspo.
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Il est assez rare de pouvoir entendre les mots d'un poète dans une exposition grand public. Et Verlaine a une belle musique lui-même. Dommage que les lettres ne soient pas disposées avec une version imprimée à côté des originaux, rendant la lecture hasardeuse ou repliée sur une borne dédiée. Dommage aussi de ne pas avoir donné carte blanche à Guy Goffette, écrivain lecteur passionné de Verlaine, plutôt que trois photos sans intérêt de Patti Smith. Dommage de mêler aussi la poésie de Rimbaud sans pour autant les confronter réellement. Rimbaud prend trop de place ou pas assez.