Postcards from Waterloo: Tom Verlaine’s Historical Constellations
“Postcards from Waterloo: Tom Verlaine’s Historical Constellations” sees Tom Verlaine as a Romantic rather than situating him among the avant-garde. Drawing on those Romantics who, like Keats, do not write with immediate reference to their historical context, Verlaine constructs songs that constellate past eras in relation to the present. In particular, his song “Postcards from Waterloo” draws a parallel between the creation of punk as a cultural category and the early nineteenth century’s retrospective construction of Romanticism. The chapter argues that Verlaine’s vein of Romanticism changes from his early work with Television to his later solo work, especially Words from the Front (1982), an argument supplemented by a comparison of Verlaine’s strain of Romanticism to Patti Smith’s. It concludes that however useful historical contextualization may be, an interpretation of Verlaine’s music also needs to recognize his untimeliness, as he creates his own context with reference to the Romantic era.