The Poete Maudit

G. Tod Slone paints above the signature of P. Maudit, a name derived from the French tradition of the poete maudit, usually translated as the accursed poet. According to the common story, the poete maudit chooses to live a life deliberately outside or in active opposition to accepted society. In one romantic version, the poete maudit abuses drugs and alcohol, adopts a criminal path, becomes violent, goes insane, and escapes the detested world with an early death. The term has been applied to Villon, Baudelaire, Verlaine and Rimbaud.

The Maudit of this exhibition is a different man. Drugs and alcohol do not fuel him; he is not a criminal and does not endorse violence; his sanity is not in question; and he did not die young. Now in his early sixties, he continues to follow an academic life with remarkable commitments to free speech, democracy and poetry. As editor for over a decade of The American Dissident, Slone uncompromisingly provides a forum to certainly dozens, and more probably hundreds, of poets whose voices have been refused and rejected by a literary establishment that hypocritically abandons those who best embody service to the Muse: the seeking and speaking of the hard truth.

It is not a pose. Slone relentlessly insists that a poet must face his or her self in the coldest of mirrors. Within that mirror is the question the poet sees only in the reflection of his or her own eyes in the unforgiving light, the question of the veracity of the poet’s work. Slone doesn’t have the answers, only the questions. And, in his guise of P. Maudit, Slone’s got plenty of those. Has the poet who has written 4,000 poems ever written a single one? Does the laureate lose the mantle of poet when he or she accepts an honor bestowed by an establishment deliberately blind to truth telling? What value does the poet find in Pushcart nominations, pages of publishing credits, acceptance by The New Yorker? Is the poet serving the Muse, or the Ego? Does the poem challenge the powers that be? More than anything else, is the poem honest?

It is to these questions that Slone devotes himself—in life, by pen, and through color and brush. He holds himself to the same challenge of silver and glass that he asks of others, and he’s paid a price or two for it. For anyone claiming the title of Poet, the artwork presented here will create an opening for a rededication of our work to the Craft. Anyone else can quit claim to the deed.

Russell Streur
The Camel Saloon