An animator struggles to overcome the reality of his creative block.

Photo by Roberto Reposo on Unsplash

Once more, with his head slouching into his palms, he read the line again:

“La réalité étant trop épineuse pour mon grand caractère, — je me trouvai néanmoins chez ma dame….”1

Having been stuck on this opening verse of Rimbaud2 for some time now, he hoped it would alleviate the creative block he had contracted several months ago.

For Gonzalez, animation was now a loveless enterprise. He had once thought himself a sorcerer with the ease at which he could conjure up his dreams into reality. But since his life had become that of chronic tedium and sleepless nights, little space was left for such spontaneity. And now, through the fault lines came the sorrow he felt since the passing of his beloved Matilde. Sometimes he would feel her stare, and embrace her phantom scent in the lonely musk of his basement art studio he had now come to inhabit.

It would be in these moments, Gonzalez would turn to poetry and literature for solitude, but this particular poem seems to have opened up a quandary. Not one of intent or meaning on the part of Rimbaud, but a much deeper crisis. He could feel the mixing of his longing and his desire to create again, with each and every word he read, boiling under the surface, making its way toward the earth. But he was equally confused in how little that desire translated over into any tangible progress. He was left in a state of burning paralysis, with the intensity of that blank screen that so tormented him.

As he wept for himself, for his frustrations, and for his art, he took his pen and drawing tablet for one last time. As his vision clouded with the fruits of his wounds, he began to draw again. With little regard for the quality or composition, he drew. All around him, towering boscages grew extinguishing all light below the canvas. Scarlet birds soared frenetically, and a deluge of saltwater began to flood the soil of this new and foreign land.  As the tides rose, Gonzalez began to feel his already tenuous control slipping between his locked fingers. A slave to his own energy, no longer could he move out of his own volition, paused amidst the morass. Wanting so badly to prostrate himself to the ground, in a desperate attempt to end this waking paralysis, Gonzalez gave out a despairing cry “Matilde! My beloved Matilde!”

Echoing in the sunken surroundings were the words of Rimbaud, the words of the poem he had so diligently read:

“Tout se fit ombre et aquarium ardent…”3


“Since reality was too prickly for my lavish personality,— I found myself nonetheless in my lady’s house…” Translation by John Ashbery


The poem is “Bottom” by Arthur Rimbaud in his collection Illuminations


“Everything turned to shadow and a passionate aquarium“ Translation by John Ashbery