A Buddha named Baudelaire

1988, (Sono Nis):
ISBN-10: 1550390082
ISBN-13: 978-1550390087

“Ron Smith began writing A Buddha Named Baudelaire when he was student at Leeds University. Eighteen years later in Lantzville, British Columbia, an inspiration of poetry has reached its maturity. This is an astonishing poem that flows like magic through a Mediterranean dreamscape. A poem written by a Canadian that owes its life to the phases of French literature. It is not about being a homage to Baudelaire any more that to Paul Eluard, or Robert Desnos. A Buddha Named Baudelaire dwells in the eternal cycle of love and its assassin. It moves from white sand to snow in the intimate silence shared by lovers. The poem is a psychic narrative about the struggle of wills. It is the chess game of the spirit. A poem that plunges into an internal landscape and makes its way through the labyrinth like a lantern. A Buddha Named Baudelaire is a masterpiece of lyrical intelligence.”

–Allan Safarik


“Ron Smith writes the poem of the assassination of spent forms of poetic logic and perception. A Buddha Named Baudelaire names us into a new direction in contemporary poetry. We pass through the gates of knowing renewed by the intuitions, linguistic and erotic, that inhere in the body’s dream. We read the poem with our five senses. Or is it six?”

–Robert Kroetsch


“A stylish prose poem, redolent of the bard honoured in its title, A Buddha Named Baudelaire is a book as tightly-structured as the French aesthetics it admires. There’s exceptional craft here: Smith knows his turf….it is strong work; the introductory images are rapturous; its plot and fin d siècle lassitude echo the exacting cinematic lens of Robbe-Grillet or Duras.”

–Trevor Carolan, The Vancouver Sun, June 10, 1989


“For me, Ron Smith’s A Buddha Named Baudelaire is the most engaging. After setting its tone with quotations from Rimbaud, Char, and Bataille, this often surrealistic prose-poem leas the reader through he labyrinth of a developing relationship between the speaker and a ‘beloved,’ which can be both a human lover and the speaker’s poetic art, as suggested by the phrase “White sheets, white bodies, white paper” with which the book opens and closes. Soon the relationship assumes the studied caution of a game of chess, the pieces struggling to preserve themselves within their squarely defined isolation, with the ‘walls” of “this grotesque geometry.” It is only through escape and “assassination” that the speaker is able to move beyond the square (conventionalized) walls to accept and be accepted by the ‘beloved’ in “the holy grace of moonlight.” The theme is the necessary death of the old, self-centred “self,” or literary convention (“We embrace only when we deny that we belong to our own longing.”) and the resurrection into a new vision of the mystery of the ‘other’ (“Yet never has your skin appeared so soft and white. A cool nakedness.”). It is the theme one finds in D. H. Lawrence’s “The Ship of Death” and in Martin Buber’s shift from the ‘I-It’ to the ‘I-Thou’ relationship.

Smith’s language and surrealistic imagery evoke remarkably the steep terror of isolation and vulnerability as well as the final joy and repose of confident mutuality. The freedom of his ‘broke’ form allows him to shift from the prosaic (“We rise when it’s late and the night air cools our kitchen above the front stairs of the apartment house where we live”) to the poetic (“The night is as quiet as bones”) within a short paragraph and with great effectiveness.”

–William Latta, Canadian Literature, 1991


A Buddha Named Baudelaire Review
Ron Smith has long been a key figure in the West Coast literary scene, and there are many of us, readers and writers, who feel indebted to him for the work he has done over the years at Oolichan Press, publishing poetry and fiction with fine editorial taste and visual elegance. A recent Oolichan poetry offering, for example, is Circus Dogs ($7.95) by Tommy Douglas (not the late politician), a whimsical, surrealistic collection of bizarre encounters and strange juxtapositions.

After a long silence as a poet, Ron Smith has now published A Buddha Named Baudelaire ($7.95) with Sono Nis Press rather than with his own Oolichan. If your taste runs to decadent writing and mine does you will like this book.

Ron Smith offers the kind of prose poems which Baudelaire also loved to write, and there is in his work the same sense of the mysterious correspondences of existence, and the same awareness of the visible world existing in all its epiphanous glory, that distinguish the great French poets from Baudelaire d Gautier down to Rimbaud, and which Smith admirably celebrates without. imitating.

A Buddha Named Baudelaire is a fine meditational structure that has been so long in the making that it seems to concentrate the essence of the writer’s life and thought into a tight cluster of hard and gemlike flames.

— by George Woodcock, BCBW, 1989

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