quick note: a few people asked me to clarify some of my silly allusions-- so there's a bit of a parsing after the poem...xxxj
Paree Avec Mon Cigar
...truthfully, this poem was spawned last week when in a spate of insomnia, my head in overdrive, I heard the first few lines-- the photo challenge helped me firm it up.
I see Paris as the repository for every character in the world. Here's a brief key: Ma Vlast-- a sweeping and vainglorious piece by Smetana-- "The Fatherland"-- it would be odd to be listening to this in a bistro-- on an i-pod per se... then ref to Carson McCuller's novel about alienation and loneliness-- and there you are sitting in Paree being aristocratically alienated, then came thoughts of the numerous heists from the Louvre, the next few lines about the coconut were a bolt out of the blue-- again to generate a sense of the eccentricity of those continentalized souls who might be found any time of day or night in the City of Lights and what their preoccupations might be-- of course one hopes that most of one's poem is self-explanatory but... the ferry from Marseilles and bringing poppies is a reference to the opium trade and the French connection...a bain marie is a double boiler and a double entendre-- Marie's bath, Marie being just about any French whore...hopefully one enjoys the lines about the Bohemian Quarter; D'Artagnan is one of the noble, fleur de lis upthrusting Three Musketeers-- Alexander Dumas-- pretty common knowledge that Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas were lovers and that Stein wrote a book of love poetry called Tender Buttons-- that Gershwin wrote An American in Paris, that Hemingway too was of the infamous Lost Generation and placed his war-devastated/castrated Nick Caraway/ A Farewell to Arms? there--and I have no idea whether Sartres swore or not-- it just seems that he would have and my metier demanded it. Ha! Then, the rest: the famously gorgeous jardines du Tullieres, that pate' is typically made of goose liver, artists, composers, the dance, the PJ champagne (I was given a bottle for my wedding) again the list of words that have found their way into English and then the writer collapses, exhausted by all of it.
Confessions #2 and #3-- I have only been to Paree in my dreams, and I don't speak French.
More Thoughts about Paree avec mon cigar and other matters.
Writing this for me was a break from my perennial seriousness, the strip-mining of my own and my family's past, how I flog myself every day for no good reason to be a better and bettter writer-- which is why I take these challenges. Apologies and a gift basket of foie gras and d'anjou pears to any francophiles or Parisiennes I offend with my song.
This has also been an exercise in free association and letting myself be nonsensical-- something I highly recommend.
Finally: before I pulled up this post and its five so far comments today, I was ready to throw myself off the nearest tall building. I have been feeling that my recent work is very good but that it will never get its propers, as in publication in the "literary" venues, that I made an immense mistake in turning my back on the amazingly great start on a career as a poet I made in the 70's in Minnesota and Colorado and that no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to get back in the saddle.
But as soon as I saw these comments, I took heart. I value the input and judgement of those of you who graciously take the time to comment on my work. I return the favor as much as I can. At this moment I am free of the anguish I am in much of the time over recent rejections from the likes of Poetry, Field, Beloit, and last but hardly least, Greywolf. There was time when Greywolf, based in St. Paul, was a little less devoted to the already be-knighted, literary elite. If you look at their list you'll see Tess Gallagher, Linda Gregg, Elizabeth Alexander and other luminaries. Scott Townsend left and a former New York ed took over and the rest is history.
A few words about the value of community. In 1972 or thereabouts I co-founded Women Poets in the Twin Cities. One of the young women I mentored was Mary Carr, who had a very sassy mouth, wrote brilliantly and read swinging her long dark hair. I myself was mentored by Patricia Hampl. We were there for each other and no one judged anyone else. We just tried to encourage each other, and validate each other as writers and women breaking out of the lingering idea that despite all of the ground broken by feminism and the counter-culture, a woman shouldn't be a writer.
I co-founded the Smith Park poetry series-- Garrison Keillor broadcasts from the theatre we held forth in now-- with Caroline Marshall; she subsequently took me to Europe, leading to my recently completed memoir Nightfall in Verona (currently on someone's desk at an agency in NYC)-- Caroline went on to produce the NPR series Listening to Ourselves with Alan Cheuse, who is still the book critic du jour. The point is that you never know what the outcome of our interactions will be. We had a wonderful time in a verdant period, giving readings followed by parties; everyone slept with everyone else, including the never bashful and always outrageous Mr. Bly, and we all threw our wineglasses into the fire literally and figuratively.
Fast-forward to now and my founding of Poets on She Writes several months ago. The group has gone from two members to 213 as of yesterday and the site has mushroomed into thirteen thousand women writers from all over the world. One Stop Poetry is another community I find so very positive and supportive.
Writing is lonely, lonely business. If you're driven to do it, you can't help it. Thankfully, we are all in this together and I know not one writer who doesn't have some degree of angst, no matter how outwardly and traditionally successful. Thank you, all; may our work continue to feed our hearts, minds and souls.
Jenne' R. Andrews