How Rimbaud Saved my Life (Part III)

For those who couldn’t be there, here is the text of the conclusion of a speech I made on September 1st, 2017, during a giant Kiss-In, part of the Fête Arc-en-ciel de Québec (Rainbow Québec festival) in front of the Palais Montcalm concert hall, Place d’Youville in Québec City.

By Pascale Cormier

All that and I still haven’t told you how the 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud saved my life.

At age 14, when I’d hit the depths of despair and I less and less understood who I was, poetry came to me like a miracle.

It was as if the clouds had been torn apart in a flash to let in the light.

Rimbaud, especially, tugged at my heartstrings. He wrote “je est un autre” (I is another). I’d never heard anything more true and profound. I felt that phrase personally! It was as if it had been directed right at me.

He also wrote: “La vie est ailleurs” (life is elsewhere). That opened a window to my hopes.

I decided at that moment that I wanted to be a poet. It became my hidden identity. Since I had no identity, I clung to that one. It gave me a goal, a reason for living, motivation to carry on.

You can’t cheat with poetry: before being a poet, you have to first be someone. You have to have a strong self-identity that you are ready to assume. That’s why despite my overwhelming passion for that art, it took me so many years to find my own voice.

It was only in experiencing my transition, at 50 years old, that I ceased wanting to be a poet and I began writing poems. I published my first anthology in 2014, and that was like being born for a third time.

I could finally say who I really was, and am.

First seen in: Reflet de société, Vol. 27 no. 1, printemps (spring) 2019, pages 22-23.

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