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Friday, February 26, 2016

In Context: Rimbaud in New York

In this prismatic collage of song and story, theater company The Civilians (Paris Commune, 2012 Next Wave Festival) use music-theater to consider the life and lasting influence of modernism’s most elusive enfant terrible: Arthur Rimbaud. Context is everything, so get even closer to Rimbaud in New York with this curated selection of content related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #RimbaudNY.

Program Notes

Rimbaud in New York (PDF)


Desperately Seeking Rimbaud (BAM blog)
A show about Rimbaud rooted in an encounter with Emily Dickinson? Steve Cosson explains.

The Civilians
Learn more about The Civilians’ investigative theater.

“Visionary Materialism” (The New Republic)
How should Rimbaud’s Illuminations make readers feel? “Very nervous,” according to Adam Thirwell.

Arthur Rimbaud and Patti Smith (The Independent)
At 16, Patti Smith took Rimbaud as her imaginary boyfriend.

On Rimbaud (
He ran away from home three times. He was shot in the wrist by Verlaine. And he died of cancer of the knee.

John Ashbery’s Translation of Illuminations (The New York Times)
Lydia Davis on poet John Ashbery’s “meticulously faithful yet nimbly inventive” translation, used throughout Rimbaud in New York.

Watch & Listen

Beyond Rimbaud in New York
Renowned poet and translator John Ashbery reflects on the work of Arthur Rimbaud.

Eileen Myles on Rimbaud (YouTube)
Iconic downtown poet Eileen Myles traces Arthur Rimbaud from his Catholic boy rhythms to his disorganized senses.

Patti Smith - Horses (YouTube)
The downtown icon's rock anthem implores listeners to "go Rimbaud!"

Now your turn...

What did you think? Did The Civilians illuminate Illuminations? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below and on social media using #RimbaudNY.


  1. Please clarify--who were all the "characters" played by each member of the cast? Was Tony Torn's mustachioed critic based on a particular character or characters? And whom was he playing when he wore the moplike wig? Was the young interviewer interlocuting with Ashbery based on Fitgerald or Cosson or both? Which parts were Patti Smith, which Eileen Myles?--and so on-- Thanks for helping untangle the threads.

  2. Would love to see transcript here of Steve Cosson's interview with Ariana Reines -- just sayin'

  3. I thought the show was fantastic. The performances were uniformly excellent, and, in particular, Jo Lampert was an illumination in her own right. Thank you, BAM and The Civilians!


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