The Absinthe Drinkers: Paul Verlaine

Paul Verlaine, Bibi-la-Purée et Stéphane Mallarmé au café Procope, Serafino Macchiati, 1890

"For me my glory is an Humble ephemeral Absinthe 
Drunk on the sly, with fear of treason
and if I drink it no longer, it is for a good reason."

The great French poet Paul Verlaine was another notorious absintheur. His family life was less than ordinary: Verlaine’s mother kept the foetuses of her three earlier, miscarried pregnancies preserved in jars in the pantry. Verlaine attacked his mother and then destroyed these one day during an “absinthe fit”.

Verlaine began drinking as a teenager, and was already an alcoholic before he found absinthe. His disastrous on-again, off-again relationship with Rimbaud aggravated both his alcoholism and his mental instability, and culminated in a 5 year prison sentence for attempted murder. In prison he had sworn off absinthe, and for several years after his release drank only beer and worked steadily at his poetry. But by the 1890′s he was drinking heavily again, and had become a well-known and pathetic figure in the Latin Quarter, sitting in a corner at the Cafe Francois Ier on the Boulevard Saint-Michel or at La Procope, nursing absinthe after absinthe.

Verlaine’s last years were spent in and out of hospitals and institutions, were he was treated for amongst other things cirrhosis of the liver, pneumonia, rheumatism, gonorrhea and syphilis. During his last illness the hospital nurses would overlook the small bottles of absinthe his friends tucked under his pillow; they knew he was too far gone now for such small pleasures to make any difference.


Verlaine died in 1896, drinking to the end, although he had bitterly repented of his absinthe addiction in his Confessions, published the previous year:


“…later on I shall have to relate many [...] absurdities which I owe to my abuse of this horrible drink: this drink, this abuse itself, the source of folly and crime, of idiocy and shame, which governments should tax heavily if they do not suppress it altogether: Absinthe!”                                                                                                                                        [...]

 Paul Verlaine by Dornac, 1896

Also:
The Absinthe Drinkers
The Absinthe Drinkers: Vincent Van Gogh

Books in the sea | Langston Hughes (1940)



"I was unhappy for a long time, and very lonesome, living with my grandmother. Then it was that books began to happen to me, and I began to believe in nothing but books and the wonderful world in books — where if people suffered, they suffered in beautiful language, not in monosyllables, as we did in Kansas"

“I’d left a box of books in Harlem in the fall, and before we sailed I went after them. I brought them aboard ship with me. But when I opened them up and looked at them that night off Sandy Hook, they seemed too much like everything I had known in the past, like the attics and basements in Cleveland, like the lonely nights in Toluca, like the dormitory at Columbia, like the furnished room in Harlem, like too much reading all the time when I was a kid, like life isn’t, as described in romantic prose; so that night, I took them all out on deck and threw them overboard. It was like throwing a million bricks out of my heart — for it wasn’t only the books that I wanted to throw away, but everything unpleasant and miserable out of my past: the memory of my father, the poverty and uncertainties of my mother’s life, the stupidities of color-prejudice, black in a white world, the fear of not finding a job, the bewilderment of no one to talk to about things that trouble you, the feeling of always being controlled by others — by parents, by employers, by some outer necessity not your own. All those things I wanted to throw away. To be free of. To escape from. I wanted to be a man on my own, control my own life, and go my own way. I was twenty-one. So I threw the books in the sea.”


Langston Hughes, The Big Sea, 1940




Also:

Stereosc2pe + | Walking | Pablo Picasso, 1901

                   Pablo Picasso, Couple walking, 1901                 Pablo Picasso, Woman on the street, 1901


Frame Inside | Frida Kahlo and her father Don Guillermo Kahlo, 1951

Frida Kahlo, Portrait of Don Guillermo Kahlo, 1951                                      Frida painting her father Guillermo Kahlo


Frida painted “Portrait of Don Guillermo Kahlo” eleven years after his death, and only two years before her own; aware suddenly of the need for a final testament to the man who had meant so much to her. The inscribed scroll below the painting reads: "I painted my father, Wilhelm Kahlo of Hungarian-German originartist-photographer by profession, in character generous, intelligent and fine, valiant because he suffered for sixty years with epilepsy, but he never stopped working and he fought against Hitler.  Adoringly, his daughter Frida Kahlo."

---

Frida's father, a professional photographer by trade, was also an amateur painter. It was he who first sparked Frida's interest in art. Frida would often accompany her father on his painting excursions into the nearby countryside. He also taught her how to use the camera and how to retouch and color photographs. While Frida was recovering from the bus accident, her father gave Frida his box of paints and brushes and encouraged her to paint.


         Guillermo Kahlo, Frida at Age 16                                                 Guillermo Kahlo               
                                                                              
                                             
 Frida’s biographer Hayden Herrera writes that Frida “…acknowledged the influence of her father’s professional work on her own only by saying that her paintings were like the photos her father took for calendar illustrations, only instead of painting outer reality she painted the calendars that were inside her head.”

Also:

The Book and the Movie: Mouchette | Georges Bernanos / Robert Bresson, 1966


“ You know that on any other day you’d be pulling faces already. But today your heart’s asleep. Don’t try to waken it too quickly, my dear. They’re the best moments of life. I can’t do nothing for people who’re too wide awake. There’s too much bad in them. You might just as well put your hand in a badger’s hole. When you passed by this morning, just remember, you stopped a minute in the middle of the road. Your whole face was asleep, apart from your eyes. When you came back, your eyes were asleep too. What’s the good of waking her, I thought. Hasn’t she had enough unhappiness already? ”

Georges Bernanos, Mouchette, 1966

"I want to concentrate, constantly, absolutely, on one face, the face of this little girl, to see her reactions. . . 
That is what interests me. The camera will not leave her"

Bresson explained to Jean-Luc Godard in a 1966 Cahiers du cinema 
interview that preceded the film’s release


Mouchette, in false tones, sings the following lyrics:         > Mouchette singing      

 Espérez! Plus d’espérance! 
Trois jours, leur dit Colomb, 
En montrant le ciel immense 
le fond de l’horizon 
“Trois jours et je vous donne un monde 
Vous qui n’avez plus d’espoir” 
Sur l’immensité profonde 
Ses yeux s’ouvraient pour le voir

* Hope! Hope is dead! 
Three days, Columbus said to them, 
Pointing to the vast sky ahead 
that stretched beyond the horizon 
“Three days and I’ll give you a world 
to you who have no more hope” 
Over the vast depths 
He opened wide his eyes

by Casismir Delavigne, Trois jours de Christophe Colomb“, 1835

       
                                                  “Suicide only really frightens those who are never tempted by it and never will be, for its darkness only welcomes those who are predestined to it.”                                                                                  
                     

                  
“And now she was thinking of her own death, with her heart gripped not by fear but by the excitement of a great discovery, the feeling that she was about to learn what she had been unable to learn from her brief experience of love. What she thought about death was childish, but what could never have touched her in the past now filled her with poignant tenderness, as sometimes a familiar face we see suddenly with the eyes of love makes us aware that it has been dearer to us than life itself for longer than we have ever realized.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Georges Bernanos, Mouchette, 1966


Mouchette (1967)
Director: Robert Bresson 
Georges Bernanos (novel), Robert Bresson (scenario & adaptation and dialogue)
Stars: Nadine Nortier, Jean-Claude Guilbert, Marie Cardinal
Music: Jean Wiener


Robert Bresson on the set of Mouchette 


Nadine Nortier and Robert Bresson



Sunny Day / Public Places | Jane Bowles

“Houses! I hate houses. I like public places. Houses break your heart.” 
 Jane Bowles
Ugo Mulas, Milano, Bar Jamaica, 1954                                                Alpes, France 1950s
Fritz Henle, Paris, 1938                                                 Ugo Mulas, Roma, 1955  
Paris, 1966

Queen of the Clarinet | Ann DuPont and Her Music Men, 1915 -98


Ann DuPont (1915 - 1998), born Ann Bata in Universal, Pennsylvania, and raised in Florida. She began studying clarinet (and violin) at age nine and then played with bands in Florida and Louisiana (according to a brief piece in the July, 1939 issue of Downbeat), “absorbing the best jazz ideas from old masters.”

By the summer of ’39, with clarinetists Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman co-reigning over the kingdom of swing, Ann DuPont – described in the trades as “single, tall, auburn-haired” and billed by promoters as “Queen of the Clarinet” and “the female Artie Shaw” – had formed her own band with thirteen male musicians (called, perhaps not to alarm the superstitious, “Ann DuPont and her 12 Men of Music”) and was working hotels, clubs and one-nighters in and around New York. Downbeat praised her “wild, uninhibited style” and welcomed the presence of “a femme who plays good clarinet, and has looks to go with it … fronting a band that kicks.”

*Panama City News-Herald (Newspaper) September 23, 1941, Panama City, Florida

Ann sang with the band, too, it seems, which (with her reddish hair) would seem to have made her more “the female Woody Herman.” A 1943 profile in Billboard noted that she’d received an honorary “Doctorate of Solid Jive” from the College of the City of New York: “an honor matched only by Benny Goodman.” By ’43, Ms. DuPont had dispersed the big-band and was working with an all-male trio of piano, bass and guitar. (...)

She met her husband, George Maki, when he was lieutenant in the Navy, and she and her band were playing in Cape May, N.J. They were married on April 28, 1945, and eventually moved to Fairport Harbor, Ohio. Aunt Ann was a member of both the local musician's union and New York's famed American Federation of Musicians Union Local 802. Throughout the years, Ann played locally at various benefits, but she was quite a lady in other ways, too. She literally built two homes with her own hands and was a successful real estate salesperson. (...)

A bit of her wild, uninhibited playing can be heard on
 “Oh Daddy, Please Bring That Suitcase In,” a 1945 78 
by The Four Blues, an African-American vocal group somewhat in the style of the Golden Gate Quartet.


Ann Dupont and the Four Blues - Oh Daddy Please Bring That Suitcase In (1945)


Billboard Magazine - Sept 22, 1945         Billboard 28 Aug 1943


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