Thursday, September 15, 2011

Reading Aloud

The other night I was invited, along with Glenda, Anne and John, to Durfort to British Anne and Peter’s house for a “poetry reading”. Hey, I though, I can do that!

There are regular poetry readings in Sonoma County back home in California, where I have read at the Lit Cafe and the Literary Guild's readings in the City Council Chambers at City Hall in Healdsburg, and at the Valona Deli in Crockett. I have read my poetry in locations as various as Shakespeare & Co in Paris, the Café Kafka in Vienna, a family re-union at Roaring River State Park in the Ozarks, and Fort Casey on Whidbey Island.

I am used to keeping to the time limit, to sharing the stage with other writers, to listening respectfully to other people's work and applauding equally for each reader. I looked through my poems and picked out two new ones I was interested in trying on a new audience and an old favorite, requested by Glenda. I pulled out my new, acid green scarf, put on a nicer pair of shoes, fluffed my curls and packed up a chilled bottle of rosé to contribute to the pizza dinner.

We carpooled over; Durfort is the next little village to Soreze and is a lovely walk of an afternoon, but the path is a bit steep and dark to walk home at night. We parked by the church and made our way along the sky blue ribbon of water in the street to the worn, sea green door, rang the old school bell and mounted the double spiral staircase to the second floor.

We were the only literary audience for the evening; it was simply the four of us from Soreze, along with Anne and Peter. They had set up a table facing the balcony and covered it with some twenty-five poetry books that they have with them in what is mostly a summer house for them in Durfort. Peter had put on a pressed white shirt and festive vest, Anne a nice black sweater. We chose numbers out of a bowl to decide reader order, toasted each other's health with a glass of Kir (French cocktail made with a measure of crème de cassis, blackcurrant liqueur, topped up with Blanquette de Limoux, the Lanquedoc region lower cost answer to Champagne) to kick off the proceedings and began the first of three rounds of reading.

John Norton (no relation) read from his poetry book, Air Transmigra, just out from Ithuriel's Spear small press in San Francisco. (click here to read it on Google Books) The painting on the cover as well as the portrait of the poet on the back cover are by Anne Subercaseaux.

I read each of my three poems in turn. Glenda brought a well worn poetry compendium and read selections from it.

Anne and Peter had bookmarked some favorites to share and we each dipped into the books on the table, hearing from Edward Lear, Rudyard Kipling, Shakespeare, James Joyce, Walt Whitman and more.

We ate pizza and drank wine and then went back to reading aloud.

I love sharing books with family and friends by passing them on and/or reading the good parts out to them. I started reading to my kids when they were tiny. My Dear Daughter is reading "Swiss Family Robinson" to the Corn Tiger as his bedtime story, started when he was about a week old.

I think a lot of us who come to this region of France are attracted to a simpler life here. I'll take an evening reading aloud in the parlor with friends over a brain branding session in front of commercial TV any day.

One of the poems I read, which is becoming a crowd favorite and was published this year in
CALYX, A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, in their Winter 2010 issue, is "Warm Ripe Figs", which you will find below.

Remember to read aloud, especially to those kids!

Warm Ripe Figs

You’ve long been attracted to the young ones
with firm pink flesh, with just a hint of green
so perfect and unblemished there on display
only to taste at first bite the acrid 
bitterness of fruit picked too soon.

When will you learn to reach
for the wrinkled ones
with just a bit of heft
with the right drooping sag
those that have been 
hanging on
soaking up sun
unnoticed by bird or man
until filled with a mature
musky sweetness.

Pluck a warm ripe fig.
Put your nose close.
Pull the flesh open.
Stick your tongue in.



Ms. Moon said...

Oooohhhhh. I can see why that poem is a favorite. Mmmmmm.
I would love to hear you read it. I would love to join in on one of those nights. What sighs must be produced!

Anonymous said...

Your civilized life in the village(s) of SoFrance entices. Love seeing "Figs" published here. And there. Have you time/space for writing? Photos are lovely on new blog. Thinking of you...g.

Laura Paine Carr said...

How cool, Ms. N2! I too, love seeing "...Figs" in print several times over. Fun too, since I posted figs today without even reading this first! It is the season of fig.

I love this tale of reading aloud with friends, with kids, with one another. Such an honoring of the Creative drive of our species. I am inspired to take some books from which to read aloud up at the River Lodge.

Love these photos, too. Oh, and I REALLY love a good Kir!


Kathleen Scott said...

What a wonderful evening! And I loved the sensuality in your poem.

With article deadlines, I've missed some posts--I know because you're in France now??? Tickled me to see "British Anne and Peter's house".

Are we going to have some French recipes now?

And I'm wondering if the flight from France to NY is about the same length as the one from CA.

N2 said...

So nice to see your "faces" here, Ladies All!
@ M2: Thanks for your poem appreciation. It would be great to have you at a reading aloud gathering, here or in CA.

@ Gail: Glad to hear that someone other than LC and I are looking at the NC/LC Dailies photos =o). And thanks, as always, for your support.

@ LC: And how did the reading aloud go up on the Eel River? Figs, ripe green and black, are dropping out of the trees all over southern France even as I type. Yummy country walks!

@ Kathleen: Glad to see you coming up for air from your article writing here (hooray for paid writing work!) and thanks for the kind words on the poem.

Toulouse to Newark will be 6.5 hours when I fly there in November. JFK to SF will be 6.5 as well. So you are exactly right. I'm going to see the Corn Tiger, of course.

Bisous to you, Dears! x0 N2

Bethany said...

This night sounds lovely and perfect. I loved the shot of the door and bell. Thanks for sharing this. Gave me the warm fuzzies. I love your poem too!

Elizabeth said...

The blues in the photos are beautiful.

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