“Rimbaud, I have the addresses! I call it Arthur!”. Custodian of the cemetery from the West at Charleville-Mézières, in north-eastern France, for the past 37 years, Bernard Colin day before faithfully on the grave of the poet and observes conscientiously his “mail”. Because, even disappeared since 127 years, Arthur Rimbaud continues to receive missives in a venerable box with yellow letters, which is dedicated to him, placed at the entrance to the oldest cemetery of the city of the Ardennes, where the prince of poets was born October 20, 1854, and where he rests for eternity. “At least two or three letters per week,” says the guardian.
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“I am beginning to get impatient”
In its housing function like a small manor in the neo-gothic, which monitors the entrance of the cemetery, he keeps religiously in small shoe boxes these testimonies of affection and admiration that are sent around the world. “The harvest of six months”, lance-t-he opening three boxes stored in a drawer of the laundry room.
“To my Rimbange. To you all life”, proclaims a passionate. “Rimbaud, even if you’re not there, know that I will love you all my life”, ignites a second and a third missive promises to the poet ‘the sky and the dawn”. Some versifient, as this anonymous author: “Condolences regretted, love ravaged, that your soul rest in peace in this world rejected”.
other gnaw their brakes, as another anonymous, who hopes to soon meet with Rimbaud, or some Allison: “I’m a fan of yours but I never got a response to my letters. I’m starting to get impatient”. “May this letter come to you,” concludes feverishly one last letter drawn in one of the boxes.
This wish is always granted. Addressed to “Arthur Rimbaud, cemetery, Charleville-Mézières”, all the letters duly stamped are certain to reach its destination and then religiously maintained by Bernard Colin. “Sometimes I’ve found letters that are scary. The people entrust to Rimbaud their evil to live. It is their confidant. They talk as if it was alive”, he says.
A gift from Patti Smith
Bernard Colin is coming out with a new relic of his precious boxes of treasures: a mediator of the american singer Patti Smith, big fan of the poet with soles of wind and owner since 2017 of a house in the hamlet of Roche, near Charleville-Mézières, where would have been written A season in hell . And the guardian of the remembrance rimbaldien to add to give even more force to his words: “She always comes to collect on the grave of Rimbaud when it passes at the festival du Cabaret Vert”.
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“But many others also came, as Hubert-Félix Thiefaine, Hugues Aufray and even Dominique de Villepin, the former Prime minister”, as a great lover of Rimbaud, remembers the one who never hesitates to make a guide for the many tourists in summer. “A lot of Asians, Chinese, Japanese, but also of the Europeans, the French. Some spend hours at the grave to write. Others come to gather, drink a beer, smoke a cigarette,” says Bernard Colin. His shoe boxes to keep carefully the testimony of these passages: letters, poems, collections of Rimbaud in any language, plates pyrogravées, CD’s, medals, jewelry, packs of cigarettes, bottle of alcohol, small heart red foam…
other tributes are more discrete. “Here, it is the private mailbox of Rimbaud,” says Bernard Colin by designating a small crack in the slab tombstone of the family vault. “If we opened, I think we would find many, many letters,” imagine there. “And there, it is in the corner of the small Arthur,” he says, smiling. Behind the two stelae white dedicated to Arthur Rimbaud and his sister Isabelle, who died at the age of 17 couples have already been surprised to make love. Rimbaud feeds all the fantasies. And as a final metaphor, Lucile Pennel, the managing director of the Rimbaud museum, summed up in a phrase the immortality of the poet: “Rimbaud, it is the Jim Morrisson of Charleville-Mézières!”.
If, to the 1950s and 1960s, the city had shunned Rimbaud who had both conspuée, Charleville-Mézières is today entirely dedicated to its poet, the true head of gondola from the tourist attraction. That does not contradict Bernard Colin. “When I arrived, 37 years ago, the old guard told me that Rimbaud was only able to attract a person. It’s changed a lot!”