Life in Poetry reading, writing, reflecting

Life in Poetry reading, writing, reflecting
April showers bring May flowers

Thursday, 20 February 2020

⌗WEP-IWSG February 2020, Café Terrace, I WISH

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It's time for the first Write Edit Publish Challenge of 2020, writing on a word and picture prompt with the Insecure Writers' Support Group.
If you'd like to know more about WEP and IWSG,  or join the Challenge go here and here

IWSG in the 100 best blogging sites

The WEP site

The joint WEP-IWSG Challenge 2020

This Month,  Café Terrace, Van Gogh's Starry Night.

And now, without further ado, my response to this month's prompts :

I Wish

          I was gazing at the square across from the pavement, sipping my café crème, half a baguette layered with demi-sel butter, a tartine, as they call it here, on the table. The square had two green wooden benches screwed to the ground and four tall poplars, leaves reaching up to the sculpted iron balconies above. Looking up Rue de Dunkerque to my left, I saw the minaret-like spires of Notre Dame du Sacré-Coeur wink at me in the setting sun.
I heard a snorting sound to my right and turned my head to find, to my surprise, two dappled grey horses with woven manes, mounted by two odd-looking gendarmes who appeared as though they had come straight from post WWI Paris. Very strange, I thought to myself. Did they still have mounted policemen in the city, in the twenty-first century ? I stared again at the horses whose hooves were beating the sleek cobbles. Where had the tarmac gone ?
Shaking my head to rid myself of the bizarre image, I picked up my tartine  and dipped it into my large cup, letting the delicate taste of fresh crust and salty butter melt with the coffee corsé in my mouth. Munching, I washed it down with a gulp of scalding drink. Mmm ... Heaven.

The air was alive with the frantic last twitters of the birds preparing for the night. But I was indulging in my breakfast ritual, phased-out, having worked all night editing my conference paper. That and probably some left-over jet lag. The terrace with its bistro chairs and marble-topped, silver-ringed tables was deserted, awaiting the revellers of the evening who would start by gathering to take the aperitif together before scattering onto more exciting entertainment; the boulevard theatres were just down the hill, the Follies Bergères round the corner and the Moulin Rouge at the foot of Montmartre beyond the cathedral. These places hadn't changed much in the last hundred years. The seats were still lush red velvet , the decor still very Art Nouveau. In the surrounding streets, bistros, cafés and brasseries mingled effortlessly with Japanese, Chinese, Kebab or modern branché (hip) restaurants.

' La Forme est tout ,' came a bass voice answered by a heavily accented,
' La Matière fait le poète . '

(- Form is everything.
- Content makes the poet.)

I swung round and saw a dark-haired, round-headed man in conversation with a tall, moustached, tweed-clad gentleman who had both just appeared round the corner from the street below. How bizarre, I could swear they were the spitting images of Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway. How was that possible ?
They sat down two tables to my left and I stared. The one who resembled Pablo looked up and caught my eye, a dark glint and cocked brow checked my gaping mouth which I slammed shut. He then turned towards his Ernest-looking friend and they resumed their discussion.

' The first thing they will see when they behold a painting is shape and colour, ' Pablo said.
' The first thing they will feel is the texture of a cover, then, reading, the atmosphere of the setting, the dept of the characters, ' replied Ernest.

A waitress appeared. She must have just started her shift because I hadn't seen her before. She wore a long brown skirt, a frilled cream-white blouse, a laced apron and a white ribbon in her hair. Not really in keeping with the latest French fashion shows.

' Que prendront ces Messieurs ?'
' Un p'tit blanc sec '.
' For me a whiskey on the rocks'.
' Bien Messieurs'.

She turned towards me and asked with a distinct smirk, or was I imagining it, on her lips,

' Et pour vous, Monsieur, encore un grand crème ?'
' No thank you, a beer please,' I replied curtly.

She disappeared inside and I saw Pablo and Ernest glancing in my direction and chuckling.
I was the dindon  de la farce , as the French would say,  a joke which I didn't understand. I frowned at them. This was surely a dream, a mirage. I would wake up in a puff of smoke, my head on a pillow.

The Sacré Coeur chimed seven and a red Mazarutti stormed by . I turned back towards Ernest and Pablo but in their stead were Brad and Leonardo. So I finished my tartine  and took out my papers from my battered satchel. I had to prepare for my lecture tomorrow at the Sorbonne across the river. I read the title again : The Power of Suggestion during the Surrealist Period.


Thank you for visiting. If you would like to comment and help me improve my writing, I welcome all FCAs. Below the critique codes.

Edth Piaf , Mon Légionnaire  go here ; Milord here ; Les Mômes de la Cloche here; Non Je ne Regrette Rien here

Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen, here

Paris directed by Cédric Klapischhere 
with my favourite French Actors and Actresses : Juliette Binoche, Romain Duris, Fabrice Lucchini, François Cluzet, Albert Dupontel, Mélanie Laurent.

and here  to know more about this 2008 fabulous film with music from Erik Satie's Gnosienne.

And now for a guided tour of Paris with my most recent pictures, Summer and Winter.

Paris, August 2019
Rue de Montmartre

Rue de Dunkerque


Tour Saint Jacques 
... sorry don't know how to turn it ....

Rue des Jeuneurs

Théâtre Marie Bell
Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle


Notre Dame de Paris
January 2020

Le Pont Neuf et le Louvre

January 2020

La Conciergerie

La Tour Eiffel vue du Pont Neuf

Sur  les Berges de la Seine

Quartier de la Goutte d'Or, Rue de Clignancourt
August 2019

Rue Müller

Please feel free to like, dislike, discuss and I will be sure to reply.

Looking forward to reading your exciting takes on the prompts. Warm sunshine here in Toulouse. Spring is here, flowers blooming, birds a-nesting. Beware the April frost. See you in a fortnight for a new monthly question from the Insecure Writers' Support Group.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

⌗IWSG Wednesday 5th February 2020. Inspired by Art Forms.

Welcome to the second Insecure Writers Support Group post of the year.
If you would like to know more about this encouraging and interesting club, read here
to sign up go here

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Remember, the question is optional! 

February 5 question - Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it? 

The awesome co-hosts for the The awesome co-hosts for the February 5 posting of the IWSG are Lee Lowery, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Jennifer Hawes, Cathrina Constantine, and Tyrean Martinson!

Yes, definitely inspired by all art forms. I write what I see but also what I hear.

My first poem inspired by a photograph was a landscape in Cornwall, on my second trip to Land's End and St Just in 1985. I met a family of poets who lived by my friend Dave whom I had met in the Summer, hitchhiking one stormy day while rambling.
The mother and son both showed me their poetry and the two combined, the photos and poems, inspired Storm in Cornwall, the first draft written in 1986 which you will find below, the final edited version will appear in my poetry collection From the Shadows.

During my travels but also at home I take a lot of photographs : wherever I find beauty in what I see, visual or emotional. landscapes, nature, sunrises and sunsets, the moon and the stars, cities, architecture but also people and situations unfolding before my eyes. One such photograph I took in Cape Town in South Africa in 2005. This inspired me to write a short story about the group of dancing girls. I gave them names, personalities and dialogues. I never finished the story but now that I think about it again, I would very much like to create a full-fledged story or maybe include it in one of my chapters of my novel-in-progress which is set in part in Africa. The photo and story have never left my mind's eye.

Cornwall 1985

Rocks below, sky above,
wind in my hair, sun in my eyes.
This is where my country lies.

Green cliffs of jutting granite.
Foaming white waves upon a deep,
glistening blue sea. Pale creamy sky
home to gliding wild buzzards .

This is a time to be wild, to show
the world that beneath calm waters
lies a storm ready to awake through anger.

There is a time for peacefulness and beauty,
a time to be generous and loving.
It is always time to be free and determined.

Sharp rocks and blades of waves
picture wilderness and strife.
Where does my life lie ?
Where my love ?

For what must my frankness fight ?
Where to seek and find the truth ?
Fly, ride, sail. Quicker than the gale.

Paintings inspire me also. I love going around museums on my travels or visiting the same ones over and over again. Turner, my favourite painter inspired a poem which will also be included in From the Shadows. It was written while perusing a reproduction of his painting on the Battle of Trafalgar. It is in fact a puzzle of 5000 pieces which is now part of my writing desk (a hardwood plank, a cardboard, the puzzle completed in 1994 and a glass top). It has gone through five house moves and unfortunately one piece on the edge is broken in two.

Turner Alive 2013 (extract)

The azure is angry with flame. Ebbing rays cast their last light. 
A firework before death. Belts of cloud choke the golden globe. 

The stroke of the horizon engulfs the fiery darts. 
Between cloud and sky, the globe fights its last battle. 

On the waves, specks in the cosmos, conquering battleships 
fend off canon balls, coarse sails. 


Music inspires me the most. I never write without. Morning writing with Birdsong and when at my desk gazing out of the window and the posters and drawings on the wall, I listen to my  favourite rock groups from the '60s to 2020, classical music (Mozart, Chopin, Tchaïkovsky, Purcell and A Capella Choirs) and finally lyrical singer-songwriters. One of my favourite is Leonard Cohen, also a poet whom I sorely miss. Suzanne inspired a prose poem or flash fiction that I wrote back in 2012.

On Listening to a Song 2012

Suzanne takes me down by the river. We follow a well-trodden path between the trees, drooping ash and erect evergreens. The soil is soft and our steps springy. The soles of our shoes brush against molten leaves and stamp on twigs and fallen nuts. A music of crackling and snapping notes arises from the path and soars into the branches. The notes become entangled, there, stranded, fluttering in the breeze. Suzanne is advancing, intent between fern and bracknel, her hips swaying from left to right, from right to left and back again. All of a sudden her arms take flight and dance above the thorns to avoid their reaching tentacles catching on the sleeves of her auburn sweater. Knitting loose, it hangs about her torso erasing her plump figure. Suzanne’s hair flaps around her neck and tosses, one side to another. My eyes are glued to her advancing figure and my breathing falls short. I am having difficulty catching up with her. My mouth is now blowing, my chest heaving and the loud pulsing in my ears floods out the music of our steps.
Suddenly she clambers over a rock and disappears. I rush forward, stumbling over a slimy tree root, break my fall by grasping at the rough rock. I slip and slide over nooks and crannies but Suzanne is out of sight. A tiny yelp escapes my lips, a whimper. A wave of despair blown out of all proportion overwhelms me.
‘Suzanne !’ I shriek.
A shrill tumbling giggle answers me and I direct my heavy steps towards the sound. A bend in the path releases a bubbling hiss. The river is not far.
‘Over here slow coach !’, her voice taunts me.
I push past shoulder tall ferns. And there she is, smiling back at me with a mischievous twinkle while pushing off the heel of her sandal with arched toe.
‘First in the water’
Suzanne has already wriggled out of her sweater and dress. I watch while she slips into rushing water, boiling bubbles engulf her pale skin. She swims under water across the river. Her strong arms reach far and wide at each stroke but it's not enough. The current is already sweeping her down-stream, fifteen to twenty feet away onto the opposite bank.

Her long fingers cling to the weeds. Her feet, still trapped in the current, float away, a life of their own. She heaves herself up onto the grass and lets out a sighing laugh and a groan of relief. Stretched out on her stomach, her toes still dangling in the water. Suzanne twists her gaze through the spray towards me. I haven't moved, my clothes still protecting me from her eyes. So I sit down on the large stone slab and lower my head. My hand trails casually into the flow and I jerk back my arm. The river is excruciating cold.

 Suzanne booms a loud rolling laugh and sits up. Her panties clinging to her wet skin show a dark shadow between crossed thighs.

Leonard Cohen Suzanne, here

Mr Turner (the unorthodox and humbug) by Mike Leigh, 2014, here

Cornwall November 1985

South Africa, Cape Town, October 2005

My writing desk 2020

That's all folks. My WEP Café Terrace story coming up shortly, already written. No little blue people this time round but be patient, they might resurface during the course of the year, I'm not finished with them.

How about you ? What art forms are you inspired by ?

Sunny and warm today, a few stray wisps of wintry clouds floating.

Thank you for visiting. Please feel free to leave your thoughts and I will be sure to reply.