Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Issue 20, August 2012)

For Baudelaire, all human forms body, statue, corpse become haunted with the hemorrhaged life that usurps them money, commodity, war. Written during the same period as Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal offers an organic allegory for becoming inorganic. Attuned to the naturalization of capital, Baudelaire praises degraded things in a language of natural sensation. “The soldier has his beauty, just as the prostitute and the dandy have theirs,” he writes in “The Painter of Modern Life.” Anticipating how we’ve materialized our own dematerialization, his poems return the body to “a throng of wandering lost desires,” which have themselves become allegories zombies of living labor. And whereas Whitman consolidates an emblem of restored fraternal order national unity in the figure of the fallen soldier, Baudelaire loses himself, subliming the perfection of a soldier’s toilet, his immaculate dress and cosmetic comportment. Here he might find a pleasure comparable to the spectacle of a setting sun, “a headless corpse emitting a stream of blood” dizzying array of poignant splendors, cascade of molten metal, paradise of fire, dazzling colonnades hieroglyph of militarized common sense.