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Le flâneur, Part 2

May 2, 2014

It seems that these are quite private posts once I realized that no one is reading them, another reason why I have not posted anything in quite some time — or perhaps the best reason to just write & write & not worry about an “audience” that in fact does not exist.

In my recent wanderings, including those in the stacks of the Del Norte County Library, I have expanded my thinking on this concept of the flâneur that I wrote about previously.  In the library stacks I found an intriguing book by Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking that has also led me to the work of Walter Benjamin (but had to get his books on inter-library loan) on Charles Baudelaire.  Benjamin doesn’t see Baudelaire as a flâneur per se, but  describes the flâneur as someone who “goes botanizing on the asphalt”.  Inspite of  the imposing redwoods overhead here, the incessant waves at my feet, I prefer to think of myself as a botanist of the sidewalk, a fisherman of the gutters.  It has made me see that my poetic models were flâneurs as well — Cavafy, Pessoa, of course Baudelaire, even Hesse’s great hero Steppenwolf, perhaps even Frank O’Hara (taking me back to NYC).  And now I have begun to cubby-hole poets I read into “flâneurs” & “non-flâneurs,” a way to get beyond the turgid “Nature poets”.  I have also begun a search for more early 20th Century works that might expand this category, such as novels by Soupault, Breton.  And re-reading Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen.

Hanna Arendt, in her introduction to a collection of Walter Benjamin’s writings Illuminations, writes:  “And just as one inhabits an apartment, and makes it comfortable, by living in it instead of just using it for sleeping, eating, and working, so one inhabits a city by strolling through it without aim or purpose …”  I think of this each time I step out of my basement/”garden” apartment unto Front St. (or, alternatively, out the back through the wooden gate to the parking lot) & begin la dérive to one-never-knows where, beyond the sports bars.

Look for me passing by your parlor window some evening as the sun sets over waves on the horizon.

From → Ponderings

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