The poet Paul Verlaine is one of these creative people whose work has been overshadowed by a sensationalistic private life. In Verlaine’s case, it was his scandalous (at the time) homosexual relationship with Arthur Rimbaud. While Rimbaud’s poetry still stands in the minds of many and has been the source material for rockstars like Jim Morrison and Patti Smith, Verlaine has disappeared a bit from view (aside from being connected to Rimbaud).
The poet I think one would most likely compare Verlaine to isn’t Rimbaud but Charles Baudelaire. They lived similarly decadent and self-destructive lives and lived roughly at the same time. However, Baudelaire’s verse is shocking in its honesty, its discordant style, and its powerful descriptions of man at his frailest. I wrote more about Baudelaire here http://rgdinmalaysia.xanga.com/669584750/the-flowers-of-evil-by-charles-baudelaire/
Despite the seedy cloud around Verlaine’s life, his verse is shockingly normal. He has an eye for little details and he knows the benefit of just enough speech not saying more than what is needed for the reader to draw a picture in their minds but his subject matter is often purely descriptive or observational. If he was disturbed, I don’t find it in the verse I’ve read.
Another thing I notice about Verlaine’s poetry is his use of conventional meter. Many of his poems are constructed of four line stanzas of roughly the same amount of syllables and words. In recitation, their delivery exposes their conventional construction….But there is nothing wrong with that from a critical point of view-it does not necessarily hurt his verse.
Rather, Verlaine is a simple poet, easy to grasp, and he has found a way to make his ideas small and to keep whatever disagreeable elements of his personality from interfering with his poetry.
Here are two of my favorite poems of Tom Verlaine
THE YOUNG FOOLS
CLAIR DE LUNE