‘Riding the Lines’: The Poetics of the ‘Chevauchements’ in Henri Michaux’s Drug Experiments

  • Mathieu Perrot


In 1954, at the age of 55, Henri Michaux was a well-published writer and a seasoned traveller. As a young man in the 1930s and 1940s, the Belgian poet and painter had voyaged across East Asia, Central and South America, which resulted in a large portion of his oeuvre: well-known accounts, both real and imaginary, of his trips abroad, fictional ethnographies, and numerous volumes of poetry. Then, in 1954, one year before he became a French citizen, Michaux embarked on another kind of voyage. He began to explore and systematically describe the effects of various illegal drugs — including hallucinogens such as the newly discovered LSD 25, psilocybin and the milder cannabis — on his impressions and artistic expressions. Starting with Misérable Miracle (MM, 1972), Michaux wrote five poetic essays relating what he had felt and learned from the drugs he used. In some of them, he included drawings made while intoxicated (forty-eight of these appear in MM). A year later, Michaux published his proposal that all scholars try narcotics, arguing that they open onto a specific type of knowledge not accessible to the sober mind (Michaux, 1957, p. 82).


French Citizen Numerous Volume Healthy Mind Imperfective Verb Synaesthetic Experience 
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© Mathieu Perrot 2015

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  • Mathieu Perrot

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