Cimitiere de Montmartre
Yesterday, I went to my first poetry reading - turned on to it by Nancy Norton, who (lucky woman) divides her time between France and the US. I wrote down the address and headed out early enough to have some wine and a salad before the reading and then managed to leave the address behind. I did a bit of walking up and down the street and was about to give up when I recognized it.
Jean-Baptiste Baudin -
killed on the barricades in 1851
It was your standard sidewalk cafe on the outside, but inside it was really beautiful and very large. To get to the room for the reading, I went up a very impressive stairway into a small room that was quite a bit more ornate than any we have in Sonoma County - which is fine by me.
Lots of graves have ceramic flowers and wreaths
The routine is to have one reader in French and another in another language, usually English. The English reader, Deborah Poe, from the US was an inspiration. She read from a chapbook-length historical poem she wrote about a young woman working in a "factory-convent" manufacturing silk in western France in the 19th century. I bought a copy because it serves as model for whatever it is I plan to do about my female "non-conformist" ancestors. Of course, she had a travel fellowship from SUNY to do research.
It was nice to have actual full conversations - because we were speaking English! I met a young woman from West Virginia, by way of a Masters at Middlebury, who said she is "cobbling together a life" with writing and translating and teaching English-as-a-second-language and has been here twelve years. She says you can live happily on less here because of the social services system and because there is such an active arts community.
All the cemeteries have watering cans
so you can water the plants at your loved one's grave
Tomorrow there is another reading with Dorianne Laux and others, so I'll be heading off to hear that. I also went to another English bookstore - the oldest in Paris and actually English - and though it looked like your average bookstore - without the Shakespeare and Co. vibe - it was so much easier to browse because there was enough light! I'd hoped for a good poetry selection, but it was really paltry.
I haven't mentioned the Metro much, but it is wonderful and gets me everywhere. Many of the acts have poetry in them - "Lignes et RiMes" with the "M" written like the Metro symbol. And announcing the upcoming Fete de la Philo - Festival of Philosophy - there was this (my loose translation - I hope I have it right), "How does one learn what one knows? Not by meditation, but by action." - Gandhi
Graves frosted with chestnut blossoms
There's also lots of great music in the Metro - some great accordion music and some beautiful singing in the cars and full bands and solo violins in the tunnels. And speaking of singing, I sat next to some men speaking Arabic at one of the cafes and, while two of them were talking, the third was singing - very haunting and lovely.
It was really nice to see the sun today, though it was gone by late afternoon and is supposed to stay away awhile. It has been much like Sonoma County in February since I've arrived. I think it was in the low 50's today. The warm clothes I brought were for Scotland and Wales, not Paris.
A Parisian cemetery ladybug for Andrew
I've been walking three to four hours each day and by the end my arthritic knees and feet are toast. I keep expecting them to get used to it, but they don't. Today I walked the back (north) side of the Montmartre hill on my way to and from the cemetery - fewer tourists - about four hours before collapsing for late lunch at a cafe - Salade Nicoise and a sauvignon blanc.
Cimitiere de Montmartre
Then I made myself just sit and do nothing for half an hour. Not my usual thing - there's usually a book in my hand. Practice - I survived.
End of the day at the cafe