Eating Poetry* (VII): for the New Year

Be Drunk

Charles Baudelaire
Translated by Louis Simpson

You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it—it’s the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.

But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: “It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”

*Ink runs from the corners of my mouth
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

~Mark Strand, “Eating Poetry,” Reasons for Moving, 1968

5 thoughts on “Eating Poetry* (VII): for the New Year

  1. Happy New Year to you AJA (and the little lady 😉 Thanks for a great year filled with Talent, good humor and a broad, tolerant shoulder! What a great little poem. Cheers, and Happy New Year!


    1. And to you, most splendid of readers, and to your three thousand brothers and sisters and, no doubt, many adoring friends. Out with the aughts, in with the new. Let’s shake it up for the new year.

  2. I was moved by this offering to consider the Wikipedia entry on Charles Baudelaire.

    Evidently the man died at age 46 a syphilitic laudanum addict having spent fortunes of inherited money on prostitutes and wine.

    Caveat Lector!

    I can’t think I’ve ever been intoxicated by poetry. If you have, don’t bogart that verse. If I must shake the yew and reply, I will say it is only in submission to time — not in escape from it — that liberation can be glimpsed. As Eliot wrote:

    To be intoxicated by God and prayer and adoration for my family is my wish for the New Year.

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