Saturday, April 23, 2005

Crazy, busy & exhilarating

April 22, 2005 1 a.m.

Just back from a rowdy evening at Cafe les Philosophes with Sarah Luczaj and Christine, Herzer, who asked me please to start blogging again, if only for their sake, so I promised I would start immediately ...

I'm back in the Marais, having left chez Poilloux in Aflortville mid-April, and taken up residence again at rue des Guillemites. Les Philosophes is right around the corner and serves late every night and has wonderful food and adorable waiters. We managed to decide all at once what we wanted to eat, though we'd started by wanting almost everything on the menu ... three salades des Utopistes and a plate of haricots verts and a plate of pommes sautee to share. Absolutely perfect. On our plates was everything our hearts desired, including beets and chevre chaud. I insisted that Sarah and Christine go downstairs to check out the existentialist toilettes. Both chose the mirror inscribed, "J'ai conscience," instead of the mirror that reads, "Je doute." That's the kind of mood we were in. And when a sweet little mouse -- definitely not a rat -- came scurrying out of the kitchen, running around the cafe, poking in and out of its hiding places, snitching crumbs off the floor, the whole place was laughing, enchanted. Our waiter looked at us giggling and announced, "Me, I'm afraid!" Then he got a broom and dustpan and started sweeping up the crumbs. Out on the sidewalk at midnight, I was kissing my friends goodnight when I felt something squishy under my boot. Uh-oh. But when I looked down, it wasn't dog poop but whipped cream. Only in Paris ...

It's been a crazy, busy, exhilarating week here, with the third Paris Poetry workshop in full swing. I think most of the participants are averaging three or four new poems a day -- amazing poems. And our afternoons at Rose The ("tay," as in tea) with the local literati have been stimulating and productive, too (and the tarte citronelle and berry crumbles --"croomble" in French -- too delicious to resist.) When it turned out that Jim Hall couldn't make it to Paris for the workshop this year, I asked my poet pals here to pitch in and they rallied in fabulous fashion, helping me to organize the afternoon sessions and evening readings. They've brought tremendous energy to the week of activities, and it seems we've become one big, happy, semi-functional poetry family.

Those of us who didn't spend the day shopping -- I name no names, you know who you are -- spent our "off day" Wednesday listening to Heather Hartley talk about Appollinaire. We trekked out to Pere Lachaise cemetery in the afternoon and gathered around his grave. His tombstone is inscribed with a "concrete" poem: "My heart is a flame turned upside down." Heather read to us, in both English and French, from Appollinaire's work, and then we sat on the graves and ate baguette sandwiches and chocolate. But this offended a guard who came along later and said we should "show some respect." We supposed he meant something more like Catholic solemnity. We left then, even though we vehemently did not agree. (He seemed spoiling for a fight.) Eve told us about building a snowman next to her husband's grave on the 10th anniversary of his death. And I told my friends I WANT them to read poems and eat chocolate on my grave when I'm gone.

There was a reading at WICE on Tuesday evening, hosted by Barbara Beck, and a fabulous reading by Paris poets last night, downstairs in the jazz cellar -- formerly a dungeon -- of le Caveau des Oubliettes. Beautiful, afterwards, to be walking across the Seine at twilight with a happily windblown if slightly chilled group of chattering poets. Tomorrow evening will be the big closing reading by workshop participants at Polly Magoo's. Then we'll all say so long until next year, and I'll have another week in Paris before I'm sur la route again. But now I'd better get some sleep ...


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