Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:
The poems of Illuminations barely made it into the world. Rimbaud gave them to his lover, the Decadent poet Verlaine, before leaving Europe on journeys that took him through the next two decades and to his death. Verlaine was just getting out of prison, having been put there for shooting at Rimbaud with a revolver, hitting him once in the hand. Rimbaud and Verlaine were engaged in a drink- and drug-filled binge that drove them both to the edge of sanity. They were living in filth and violence at the fringes of society, all in the name of a greater poetic truth. Rimbaud was 20 years old. He'd written a handful of poems and some prose. The poems are no less fiery today than when he first wrote them. I say fiery because that is what Rimbaud's writing does, it burns. But at 20, he was done. He had lived a few short years as a selfish and monstrous poet and that was the end of his writing career. He would live into early middle age as a traveler in the colonial world. He schemed and cheated and tricked his way through those brutal experiences and then he died. In short, it is very difficult to sympathize with or even understand Rimbaud as a human being. I suspect it is impossible.