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When I read Rimbauds verse I heard the call at the bottom of the sea | George Szirtes

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I had already decided to be a poet, but this was a revolutionary understanding of what that meant at the most visceral level

Du mußt dein Leben ändern. You must change your life, says Rainer Maria Rilkes Archaic Torso of Apollo (translation by Stephen Mitchell). Not modify your life. Not change your lifestyle. Not take more exercise. Your life. Change it. All good books change your life in some respect, if only by extending your knowledge and possibly changing your perceptions. Some lead you to a comprehensive change in direction. I know one man who lost his Catholic faith by reading Samuel Beckett. Another decided to go to university after reading Jude the Obscure. There are formative books of course, which is not the same. A good many books formed me, but the book that undid something in me and undoes it each time I look at it is the old Penguin, Rimbaud Selected Verse, with an introduction and prose translations by Oliver Bernard. It is, effectively, the archaic torso by other means.

I had already made the decision to be a poet, so that was not the change it wrought: it was more a revolutionary understanding of what being a poet meant, not in the sense that one might adopt a mannerism or two and strive to look as much like a boy genius as possible, but at the deepest, most visceral level. It was, and remains, the call at the bottom of the sea.

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