Baudelaire Day at Wolfie’s Poetry Surf

Last Thursday (16th May 2024), I finished a three-year marathon, reading the whole of Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal (155 poems in English and in French) at my weekly on-line poetry event called Wolfie’s Poetry Surf which will have been running for exactly twelve years this coming Thursday.

I’ve hosted poetry events in my home town of Lewes over the years and read my own work at a number of venues in London, in the US and elsewhere, but, I have discovered, over a number of years now, that no audiences have been as diverse as those that can come to events on-line. Virtual worlds, such as the original player, Second Life, are open to anyone, anywhere in the world, and the audiences for my weekly events, may never be large, seldom more than 25 or 30 people, but they have come from the UK, the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Serbia, the Netherlands, The Republic of Georgia, Portugal, Singapore, China, Japan, The Philippines, Brazil, Argentina, Ireland, South Africa, and Australia. They often attend at unsociable times, early morning or late at night depending on their time zone, we meet at 2pm, US EST, and it has been a wonderful experience to hear poets reading their own works from so many different countries, and, often, in a number of different languages.

Wolfie’s Poetry Surf 2012
Wolfie’s Poetry Surf 2023

Every week, apart from holidays and illnesses, I have appeared in my avatar form, Wolfgang Glinka, to host an open mic read poetry hour for all comers, where I also read poetry, my own, and mostly complete poetry collections, a poem a week, by some of the greatest names of poetry.

In these twelve years, I have read a lot of my own work, often trying out new pieces, I have always started the event by reading from three featured poetry books, three poems, each taken from the our three ‘guest poets.’ I’ve read William Shakespeare (The Sonnets), William Blake (Songs of Innocence and Experience) Alfred Lord Tennyson (In Memoriam), Arthur Rimbaud (Les Illuminations and A Season in Hell), T.S. Eliot (Four Quartets), John Donne (Songs and Sonnets), Tomas Tranströmer (New Collected Poems), Ocean Vuong (Night Sky with Exit Wounds), Frank O’Hara (Lunch Poems), Eduardo C. Corral (Slow Lightning), Billy Collins (Horoscopes for the Dead), Ezra Pound (The Cantos – all except without the Chinese Mandarin language ones), T.S. Eliot (The Waste Land), Rae Armantrout (Versed), Elizabeth Bishop (North & South/ A Cold Spring) and Charles Baudelaire (Le Spleen de Paris and Les Fleurs du Mal),

It felt special this week when I got to the final poem in Baudelaire’s Les Fleur du Mal, not only because it has been a genuine marathon, maybe the first time the work has been read in its entirety online in French and in English, but also because Baudelaire’s poetry is so important, he was maybe the first ‘Modern’ poet, and the complete work was intended to be read as a whole, leading to the longest and grandest poem at its conclusion. Le Voyage, is a journey, just as the reading of all 155 poems was a journey too. A journey through life, one that in Baudelaire’s world-view, doesn’t reach an expected end or a simple conclusion. He is talking about life as much as death, and the two are, of course, inter-connected. No Romantic denouements for Baudelaire. We have been taken on a journey through a life that has seen misery, unfairness, the joys and tragedies of love and an honest close-up look at the erotic with all its dangers, delights and poisons. We must always search, he says, always move on, usually this is away from the boredom, the ennui, of our mundane lives, but, sorry, guys, he says, what do you find in the end? Maybe we’ve journeyed from boredom and tears to find only more of the same.

If Baudelaire was the great poet of boredom, he was never boring.

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