Since 2012, you can read Arthur Rimbaud’s famous poem Le Bateau Ivre (The Drunken Boat) on a Parisian wall. After six years of preparation, consultation, campaigning and fundraising, Dutch foundation TEGEN-BEELD from Leiden managed to place the first wall poem of Paris.
The poem expresses an imaginary sea voyage of a sinking boat. The boat describes its wandering journey full of strange and sometimes terrifying experiences as well as its imaginative and hallucinatory associations on the road to nowhere. It is a kind of escape story to life.
The project was funded by the sale of two hundred certificates of €100 to Dutch poetry lovers and the support of French and Dutch authorities.
The initiators chose the long blank wall on Rue Férou, which is a narrow street between Saint Sulpice and Jardin du Luxembourg in the 6th arrondissement. This is a historical place, because, not far from here, the then 17-year-old Rimbaud recited the poem for the first time.
Jan-Willem Bruins from TEGEN-BEELD painted the hundred poem lines on the wall.
Neighbors and passers-by expressed excitement and gratitude from the beginning. Never before was the poetry of the great poet brought to life this unique way.
Since its official opening on June 14, 2012, many poetry loving Parisians and tourists have read Le Bateau Ivre silently, recited it aloud and/or photographed it. The names of all those involved, including those of the Dutch donors, are immortalized on a plaque near the poem as a thank you.