"Writing begins with an intention to want to write."
- Ted Wright
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by Edward Lacie
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Murder didn't work.
I hope kidnapping will achieve what the murder was meant to but didn't.
When the first murder failed to increase my income, I plotted a second. Last minute compassion led me, instead, to kidnap my intended second victim.
The option of another murder remains open. Insert date of death here.
Some background by which to earn your sympathy, perhaps, acknowledged Reader. Only then will I be able to name my victim, my victims.
The Writer? Edward Lacie, unemployed. I live in Seattle, Washington, United States of Aggressive Consumerism. I find myself unhireable in a market that makes a C average man its President (George "Dubious" Bush) after he wins less votes than his opponent (it didn't hurt to have a Supreme Court in his corner). Pretenders have the real jobs, and they have lawyers to keep it that way.
It's a fiction - a precarious toothpick skyscraper - we live in, post- "9/11."
At my last job (early 2000, Enron), all that mattered was an ability to tell the Emporer his clothes are pretty.¹ Before that, I studied French poetry in college and wrote my Masters thesis on various translations of Baudelaire.
(My last name is pronounced "luh-SEE". It amazes me every time, despite years of hearing it pronounced "lacey as in underwear," how it can't be read correctly the first time. I also prefer "Edward" to "Ed," but that's not as bothersome.)
For over two years I've been working sporadically and at low-paying sorts of jobs, thus I've not been paying taxes to support a war machine; I should be proud, I suppose.
I watch a lot of cable tv, the Prozac of the masses. I'm on Prozac, so the metaphor isn't casual or made to be cute or trendy. Watching a World Series win is not the same high seen on tv as from the stands, and I've done both. The Challenger disaster, though memorable, seems less a disaster when seen through that tv camera lens.
Prozac is what's prescribed for those of us who say the Emperor has no clothes.
A few weeks ago, the SciFi channel began to advertise the premiere of their mini-series, "Stephen Spielberg's 'Taken'." It reminded me of five VCR tapes that have followed me for nearly a decade-and-a-half. Recorded as I watched them, they are the original episodes of "Twin Peaks" which aired from 1990-1991 (a half-season followed by a regular length season which ended, as would be expected, with a cliff-hanger, after which it was cancelled). It is now late 2002 as I write this (and early 2003 as I revise it).
What better way to spend my unemployed time than rewatching "Twin Peaks"? It can be background as I write this journal of my crimes.
Thirty-one hours: it could take me a couple weeks to watch all five tapes, plenty of time to decide and chronicle what my next moves will be.
But when "Twin Peaks" ends - without resolution, I'll explicitly state from the outset - is when this narrative will end, regardless of what stage my "kidnapping project" is in.
Let that be my only forewarning: this narrative doesn't end, it just stops.
(A familiarity with the program "Twin Peaks" is not required, but I will reveal some of the show's puzzles, such as who did kill Laura Palmer? [and who did I kill?])
I write this while watching episode one. Leo (played by actor Eric DaRe, the first of many "Twin Peaks" characters to become a part of the text) is married to Shelley (played by Mädchen Amick). He just said, "Turn the TV off!" He is a rough, rather ugly truck-driver, prematurely bald and lookin' mean.
"Turn the TV off!" he yells.
"Twin Peaks" floods my memories:
Who killed Laura Palmer?
Hunt the culprit.
The Log Lady.
Fox Mulder in drag (Fox Mulder is actor David Duchovney's role in "X Files", but his television series debut, like so many others to be mentioned herein, was in "Twin Peaks").
Donna Hayward (Lara Flyn Boyle) has a sister who writes poetry. Her first spoken line is, "Which do you like better - 'the blossom of the evening' or 'the full flower of the evening'?"
In adolescence or early adulthood I chose to train myself to become a poet. I meant it to be my vocation. It's not a desirable vocation. It seems inappropriate background for the current job market: temp jobs that provide no vacation benefits, food service work that provides no health benefits, volunteer work that provides no income.
But before I decided to be a poet, I was a student of poetry. Centuries of literary tradition bring us to the present with its almost total disregard for what is a rich and varied history. What I learned has no value to anyone but me, and I grieve. Not a single person in my acquaintance over the years has been a regular reader of poetry.
Popular culture, which once co-existed with high culture in a parasitic relationship, has consumed the host.
(That line was not in the original draft of this narrative; it was added when this was first typed.)
My partner, Jim Post, last night suggested I try forging a missing Arthur Rimbaud masterpiece² which has been described by Rimbaud's lover, the poet Paul Verlaine. Verlaine's wife either burned the only copy of it known to exist or gave it to her lawyer who didn't know the significance of what he had been given. (Its value would, initially, have been hard to recognize.)
Rimbaud is very much a concern of this story and cannot be easily described.
Donna's sister settles on "the full blossom of evening".
This is Lara Flyn Boyle's television series debut. She's since become lastingly known as one of the leads on the very popular "The Practice." A media darling, she was going out with Jack Nicholson back in the 90s for a short while.
To "forge" the Rimbaud poem, I'd have to invent a storyline in which the lawyer's papers are found after all these years. And some paper from the 1870s or 80s.
While writing the first draft of this, I am also reading three biographies of Rimbaud. In Somebody Else, by Charles Nicholl, the author notes that every biographer has a different take on Rimbaud (and many want to write themselves into his persona).
This makes it hard to briefly describe Rimbaud for inclusion here. I'll try, but I also recommend any biography rather than my attempts at shorthand notes. (There are ample web sites with reference to Rimbaud, of course, none a substitute for the biographies.)
In 1938 (revised in 1947), Enid Starkie wrote the first well-read biography of Rimbaud in English. She begins her introduction by saying, "All those who study Rimbaud soon reach a gulf of mystery."
Only recently translated from French that was first published in the early 1990s, Jean-Luc Steinmetz explains Rimbaud (in Arthur Rimbaud: Presence of an Enigma) thus: "(F)ailure is the form life takes when it subjects itself too deliberately to the impossible."
How to describe his life? Arthur Rimbaud was born in rural France in 1854 and was honored in elementary school for his well-crafted imitations of poetry of the day. He took the vocation (or avocation, the "later Rimbaud" might argue) of poet seriously, arriving at a theory by which one becomes a poet. He articulated this theory in two letters, written days apart in May, 1871.
His theory of poet as seer is another reason for which he continues to be studied in the twenty-first century. Rimbaud's theory is that achievement of "a disorganization of the senses" allows a poet access to mystical perception and ability to express this vision in terms universal and sacred.
Invited to Paris by established 26-year old poet Paul Verlaine, the 16-year old Rimbaud arrived in Paris a week after the birth of Verlaine's son by a woman the same age as Rimbaud. Verlaine fell all but instantly in love with the boy genius.
Mme. Veraine leaves town and issues an ultimatum which would influence the future of literature: until Rimbaud is gone, she won't return to Paris.
Rimbaud, living on a "poet's wage" (suggested and) collected by Verlaine from their circle of acquaintances, continues to insult the poets who were chipping in to support him.
Faced with the loss of this "income," Rimbaud returns to his mother's house. Verlaine soon follows, and the two abscond to Brussels. From there they sail to London and decide to become tutors.
After one of their frequent disputes, Verlaine abandons Rimbaud in London and went to Brussels again. Rimbaud followed, intending to end the relationship for good. Verlaine threatened suicide for the umpteenth alcoholic time and purchased a gun.
In an emotional scene detailed in police records, Verlaine shoots Rimbaud in the wrist. Verlaine's mother is nearby to help convince Rimbaud to go to a hospital. On their way there, Verlaine again begins to make a scene and again reaches for his gun. Rimbaud gets help from a nearby policeman and Verlaine is jailed.
Rimbaud attempts to withdraw charges but authorities had seized some "incriminating" love poems and Verlaine is sentenced to two years in prison. He would serve eighteen months.
Rimbaud returns immediately to his mother's to prepare the only complete manuscript to be published with his permission, A Season in Hell.
Returning to Paris, he finds a new boyfriend, Germain Nouveau, a short, bearded hunk (who had only one testicle). They move to London as if to pick up where Rimbaud had left off with Verlaine.
This is followed by Rimbaud's period of "the Philomath" (a nickname given to him by Verlaine and Rimbaud's school friend, Ernest Delahaye, who maintained a gossipy correspondence about Rimbaud over the years, long after both had largely lost contact with Rimbaud but followed his perigrinations) in which he studies voraciously.
It's as if, having decided that "poet" isn't a well-paying or stable job, he wanted to make up for the years of background and preparation for that role by preparing for some unknown, new role. He learns German, one more of an eventual trunkload of languages with which he would be familiar if not fluent. With hopes of a rumored job, he hikes across the Alps to Italy. The job never materialized.
A few years later he arrives in Aden, on the Arabian peninsula, after which he becomes one of the first Europeans to explore, trade and settle in Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia), near present-day Djibouti (unsettled at the time and which Rimbaud said was a sterile land that would never amount to anything).
Harar, also in Abyssinia, would become his primary African residence, though he intended only to be there a short while. Shuffling between various mid-east and African locations, Rimbaud became a trader in the region, but earned only enough to get by most of the time. By the late 1890s, an ambitious get-rich-quick scheme turned into a multi-year headache that seemed to take the last of Rimbaud's aspirations away. The "Labatot Affair" was meant to be Rimbaud's reward for years of experience and laying groundwork.
A short vacation to Cairo (and a mystery graffito at the pyramids) is what Rimbaud earned where other European traders of the time usually retired back home after similar years of work.
Rimbaud returns again to Harar. A leg infection makes him bed-ridden. Carried out of interior Africa on a stretcher by hired hands and returned eventually to Marseilles, France. he has his right leg amputated.
His convalescence includes a rare and little-mentioned period of non-communication between Rimbaud and his mother. His convalescence was being overseen by his youngest (and only remaining) sister.
A short return to his mother's house is short-lived. Hoping to return to Aden or Harar, he gets his sister to take him to Paris where he takes a cab through deserted, rainy evening streets to catch a train to Marseilles and the private room he'd left not long before.
While planning one last "run away" - a return to Harar or Cairo - he died in the hospital.
Besides the puzzle of a murder, how Rimbaud fits into all this - a kidnapping, my own abandoned attempt at writing poetry (of which this prose is a recollection and re-enactment), and Henry Miller, all these will be topics to explore and explain.
Henry Miller predicted, "In the future, there will be many Rimbauds."³ I argue here that Rimbaud is not an appropriate role model. Having emulated him for decades, I abandon the aspiration.
For example, I offer another who has emulated Rimbaud and achieved no financial success. He would likely agree that the world doesn't need another new Rimbaud.
Nonetheless, I think Greg Baysans, a little-known poet of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century (born 1958, not yet deceased), is one.
A future episode (or chapter) will be mostly about Baysans, but briefly: a co-founder, in 1983, of a gay men's literary journal, The James White Review, still in existence in 2003 as I (re-)write this. His poetry appeared in its pages until 1990. In 1991 he departed from his editorial position "to pursue other projects," according to co-founder Phil Willkie, who remained with the publication another few years before turning management of it over to Lambda Rising in the mid 1990s.
And what does any of this have to do with "Twin Peaks"?
I'd forgotten that this first episode, "Pilot," premiered as a Sunday night movie. For that reason, it was two hours long, after which "Twin Peaks" was shown in one-hour episodes (exception: the two-hour, two-title "finale").
Contrast that with "Taken" ("Steven Spielberg's 'Taken'" according to the promos) which airs in two-hour installments over ten nights in two weeks. This is television a century after "Twin Peaks."
"Twin Peaks" was called quirky then, but it's almost tame now. It doesn't seem shocking to watch Cooper pull a tiny piece of paper from under the fingernail of the corpse. It's tame compared to last week's "CSI: Miami." Autopsies are seen on that show (and its spin-off) weekly.
Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn), a main character, plays her elderly Norwegian audience for sympathy, saying, "My friend died," while the soundtrack plays bouncy music.
What this has to do with "Twin Peaks" is I need a finite object to provide a stable center for my narrative, this attempt to rewrite poetry I tried to write many years ago. My "center" then was the too-ambiguous "life" and thus I lost control of my writing. Thinking I was Rimbaud, I was expanding my personal Stonehenge but stalled when I ran face first into the Son of Sam at the restaurant where I worked in Spokane, Washington.
I have so much more to say about that, about all the rest, but the end of the first episode just played, and so the writing of this first "chapter" is done, too. (Remember, the pilot was a two-hour show; the remaining episodes were half that long.)
Episode one is over.
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