A poète maudit (French pronunciation: [pɔɛt modi], accursed poet) is a poet living a life outside or against society. Abuse of drugs and alcohol, insanity, crime, violence, and in general any societal sin, often resulting in an early death are typical elements of the biography of a poète maudit.
The first poète maudit, and its prototype, was François Villon (1431 - c. 1474) but the phrase wasn't coined until the beginning of the 19th century by Alfred de Vigny in his 1832 drama Stello, in which he calls the poet "la race toujours maudite par les puissants de la terre" (The race which will always be cursed by the powerful ones of the earth). Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud are considered typical examples. Lautréamont or Alice de Chambrier are also considered as poètes maudits.
The term came into wider usage since Verlaine's anthology. Originally it was used just for the writers in his book (see below), but then it became a name for writers (or even artists in general) whose lives and art are outside or against their society. For example, the poet and publisher Pierre Seghers published an anthology "Poètes maudits d'aujourd'hui: 1946-1970" (The accursed poets of today) in Paris in 1972, collecting authors such as Antonin Artaud, Jean-Pierre Duprey and 10 others, some of which (like Artaud) became very famous posthumously.
The term is also used outside France. Examples include the Czech poet Karel Hynek Mácha, the Polish poet Rafał Wojaczek and the Italian poet Salvatore Toma; Wojaczek and Toma committed suicide at a young age. In the realm of film criticism, Jean-Luc Godard said of Alfred Hitchcock: "He was the only poète maudit to encounter immense success."
Les poètes maudits
Les poètes maudits is a work by Paul Verlaine that was published in 1884.
Stock woodcut image, used to represent François Villon in the 1489 printing of the Grand Testament de Maistre François Villon.
Comte de Lautréamont by Jacques Lefrère.