Tuesday 14 November 2017

From Keri Smith

08 Nov - 13 Dec 2017

“Parisian itineraries. Leisurely strolls quite obviously (and fortunately) unknown to the tourist trade, for there is nothing to see on these routes except for poetry in the rough, which paying travelers would never appreciate: the poetry of masonry, cobbles, boundary stones, carriage entrances, dormer windows, tiled roofs, patches of grass, odd trees, dead ends, byways, blind alleys, inner courtyards, storage sheds for coal or building materials, wreckers’ yards; the poetry of workshops, still vacant lots, bowling alleys, bistros-cum-refreshment stands; the poetry of colors but also of smells, a different smell for every doorway. Serpentine itineraries winding on endlessly, interminable itineraries open to anyone who knows how to wander and how to look.” - Jean-Paul Clébert, Paris Vagabond

     The last time I took a long trip out of the country I was in Buenos Aires by myself in 2013. Since then I’ve mostly traveled with friends, or alone to places where there would certainly be a lot of my friends, and for that I’m very thankful. But these were the same friends who when I got back from Argentina asked me, what did you do? And then they didn’t believe me when I told them, well I really just walked around. I wrote. I read five or six books.   
     I understand why they don’t believe me because these are the same friends that see me at three A.M. ready to go on to the next spot, or back to my house. When I’m around people I’m lively. I like chatting. I like drinking. I like being upright for as long as possible. But when I’m alone I revert back to my early childhood years of solitary observance. I always have a book with me, and I can walk for hours on just one cup of coffee. I pass up long dinners for a loaf of bread at home or in the park maybe. I take my book to bed with me shortly after 10P.M. and I’m up with the sunrise at 7. No one ever believes me. But because I love people I love travelling to places where I can be alone, sitting in a cafe surrounded by couples having their intimate conversations. To walk past doorways where someone is cooking dinner. To smile graciously at strangers. It’s one of the reasons I love New York, it’s easy to feel alone, but comfortable. Alone but like you belong in the busy world around you.   
     The apartment in Paris is perfect. Things seldom look just like their pictures but this place does. As soon as I got here I flung open the double glass panes of the window. Light lit up the hardwood floors. I did something I haven’t done in a very long time- I unpacked. Every single piece of clothing. I lined my books up. I plugged everything in. Then I went out to my favorite tea store (Kusmi teas are in my cupboard at home too) and the market where I filled the kitchen with the things I needed (bread, good olive oil, goat cheese, yellow tomatoes, Bordeaux) and I went to sleep. I woke up at 3A.M, jetlagged and happy. I opened my computer, and I started writing. My friend sent me a roll of film he took when he was in Paris with his band over the summer. I studied his pictures and I wrote accompanying poems. In the real, after breakfast, morning I set off to find those places. 
     It’s hard not to think of oneself as being monk-like, with all the Catholic imagery carved into almost every stone on almost every corner. But for someone that doesn’t usually have a routine, it seems appropriate. Normally in my week I work late hours at a bar, usually have a drink or two with my coworkers after and if I’m lucky make the smart decision to go home and answer emails or read. Sometimes there’s just too much to do. In New York there’s always a show, or a friend in town. Then in the mornings I either have to run straight to work, either to the bar job or to edit poetry submissions for Hanging Loose Press, or I want to go to a museum or get lunch with a friend or just sleep in and order Chinese food with my boyfriend...sometimes it’s hard to find the time to do laundry, let alone write, or answer emails from friends, or send letters, etc. When you’re working and also in love suddenly there’s just less hours in the day. Here it’s the whole opposite. I wake up 7, I stretch out on the floor like an overweight, old cat (I will turn 32 here alone next week). I attempt to do some kind of derelict yoga. Then I make my Russian black Kusmi tea, answer emails and listen to NPR, and then drink more tea. I try to study French for the next hour either listening, writing, or talking to myself. Then the next two hours I write. I write two poems for myself, then three or four for Andy’s photos (I suspect we will have a zine put together by the end of the month!) then I try to work on an essay (like this one). After that the sun should be OUT, so I go out with it. I walk around buildings, sometimes going into museums, but nothing serious yet. I only sit down in restaurants for coffee, I haven’t given into a full meal yet since I’m still in love with the markets and my kitchen. Then when the sun is going down around 5, I come back and clean up. I do the dishes. I sweep. I wipe the counters. It feels good to have the time to be responsible for a space, and to my body and my inner self. Then in the late evening I read, drink more tea, and finally write until I think it’s at least a decent hour to go to bed. I don’t think anyone will believe me, but I will have the poems to prove it. 

Keri Smith 

Wednesday 1 November 2017

From Laura Mullen

01 Oct - 01 Nov 2017

This photo, taken from my worktable in Paris (during my residency at Trelex Foundation) makes vivid the solitude and peace (as well as the easy access to nurturing stimulation!) which are so vitally necessary. The notebook I was asked contribute to an archive at the University of Auckland is seen here, open to the blank page--that terrible and wonderful invitation, that great challenge. The opportunity to confront that space of possibility unites writers and scholars at every level, and I will keep this image in my heart as I return to my teaching and mentoring. We all start from and return to this (alone): nothing. This image reminds me to honor that space—and I post it here as a souvenir, to say that I am grateful to have had this tremendously productive and nourishing sabbatical.


Wednesday 19 April 2017

From Christine Herzer

18 Jan - 18 Apr 2017



the heart does not want to participate

the voice of the woman poet being extinguished

Christine Herzer 'the voice of the woman poet being extinguished', (2017); Marker, Pencil on Paper, 26 x 80 cm

le rêve n'est pas mort 

happy [View from the Trelex Studio]

Christine Herzer 'happy' (2017); Marker on Paper,  65 x 50cm

I read my poetry for Ivy Writers Paris , a monthly bilingual experimental poetry reading series curated by Jennifer K Dick. 
I led a writing [language/art]-workshop inside of Sarah Knill Jones Painting Studio. (Sarah kindly/generously let me transform her studio...).
My 'Coup de Coeur': Villa Vassilieff, a new cul­tural estab­lish­ment owned by the City of Paris. Within walking distance. The library is fantastic.
Many thanks to Elizabeth Hansen, Heather Hartley, Sarah Knills-Jones, Astrid Dick & Anne Marsella for studio visits & enriching conversations.

Thursday 16 March 2017

Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowships

A significant new development opportunity for poetsThe Fellowships support individuals whose practice encompasses poetry in the broadest artistic sense, investing in the process and practice of making poetry.

There will be three biennial editions between 2017 and 2022 supporting a total of nine artists. Successful artists will each receive £15,000 to support a year of Fellowship alongside mentoring and a network of critical friends. Nominations have been made by a list of specialists working across arts disciplines and the first three Fellows will be announced in June. More...

Sunday 15 January 2017

From Mary Reilly

30 Oct - 2016 - 15 Jan 2017

     In August 2016, I received an email from Cole Swensen. A friend of hers was starting a poetry residence in Paris and had asked her to recommend an inaugural poet for the program: a stay (free) of up to three months in an artist’s garret in the Montparnasse district of Paris. There would be nothing asked of the resident, no proposal required, except that she use the time to further her practice. Was I interested?
     Bedazzled, ecstatic, I couldn’t believe the offer.
     Having just returned from a summer in the city, I was eager for the chance to go back. I spent June and July of 2016 working on the preliminary aspects of a translation project - funded by the Beesen fellowship - investigating the work of female French poets yet to have their poems rendered in English. I passed the time attending readings, engaging with Paris’s international poetry community, and studying the work emerging from the many brilliant, accomplished poets that form that crowd. This brilliance is not limited to poems produced, but rather permeates the very nature of the poets and makers I encountered (including Cole Swensen, Eleni Sikelianos, Sarah Riggs, Lily-Robert Foley, Kevin Holden and many more)   and the warmth of the welcome they extended.
     So, I put my New York life back on hold, packed up my things and booked a flight.I arrived November 1st a bit dazed from the flight, but full of hope and eager to begin work. Elizabeth’s husband met me at the courtyard entry, inviting me in and graciously carrying my luggage inside.
     The apartment is just lovely. Like a jeweled nest, it sits at the top of a grand, ornate Haussmann-style building on the Rue des Rennes. Each aspect of the studio is carefully curated with everything a person could need to live happily and a poet could need to write happily: from spatulas to extra sponges to paper clips and pens.
     I remember feeling overwhelmed by the generosity and care of the offering. What faith must Nina and Elizabeth have in art and artists to make such a gift. Humbled by this faith, this generosity, I was determined to honor it with work.
     I woke up each day and sat, drinking tea, at the kitchen table, looking out the garret's large window and watching the early morning activity along the set of small alleys that wind behind the Rue des Rennes. Inspired, for once having enough time to myself and no external pressure, I set out to render a small collection of poems, my first chapbook. Again, I don’t remember a more hopeful or happy week of my life.
     The U.S. election was, of course, on my mind. I had been watching, with horror and deep pain, as each week a new Trump scandal unfolded. But I was sure that sanity would prevail and, backed up by the information provided by every major media outlet, that Hillary Clinton would be my president. My horror turned to fear as Comey made his infamous statement about re-opening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. But still the polls predicted a clear win for the Clinton-Kaine ticket.
     I went to sleep early on Monday the seventh, wearing a Hillary Clinton t-shirt and my dad’s old donkey pin for good luck.
     I woke up on the eighth to a text from a close friend. He was so very sorry I had to wake up to this all alone in Paris. He didn’t write either candidate’s name or announce a winner. He didn’t have to. The whole world caved in on me, darkness and weight everywhere. I began to cry.
     The neighbor from next door, also an American, heard me and came over. We sat in one another’s arms in the small attic hallway and cried.
     The next few weeks are a blur. I cried everywhere, on the street, in the Monoprix, out for drinks with friends. Dazed and desperate, I could barely eat or hold a pen.
     I spoke with friends in New York. How could we let this happen? What can we do now?
     The French were only kind. I had been here during the Iraq War a dozen years ago and did not meet any such sympathy. At that time, every American was an emblem of illegal war, a representative of George W. Bush himself.
     After Brexit and now Trump, with the Austrian elections looming and LePen rising in the polls, there was a sense in the city that we were in this together.
     I don’t know what happened. Nothing got better. I didn’t get used to it.
     But I began writing again. What else was there to do?
     I wrote a poem about the election, about my willful ignorance and my complicity in Trump’s election,

     That everyone should seem at ease, 
     take comfort in, might feel the least 
     discomfited by these precious 

     poets being clever, being cute,
     hip in hats, living elsewhere: 
     Vermont, Paris- places to be pure in 
     when the world is just too much

     and all there is: poetry, a neatening.
     In England’s Middle Ages, when everyone was an idiot and a slob 
     and dying, to reconcile life with God
     the poetry was really weird (brushing broadly) 

     darkness, frailty in grendels and green men, 
     monsters mourning, babies dead
     demons adroit outside as in
     at tricking fair hero and audience to sin.

     Meantime, nowadays,

     an article in the paper of record 
     written in the style of Sam Shepherd 
     told of poor whites in some raw place, 
     colorful people but full of hate,

     who spend welfare checks on flags and guns 
     and blame their lives on Blacks and Clintons- 
     the “downwardly mobile” among us, 
     unskilled (useless), hopeless, toothless

     Boogeymen of my liberal white dreams, 
     of course, they fuck us.

     Thank God for writing and for the time and space to process this disaster.
     And thank God for community.
     I began exchanging emails with Jennifer K. Dick, a friend of the residency and something of a legend in the poetry community. Founder of the Ivy Writers reading series, the second longest-running bilingual poetry reading series in Paris, Dick offered me the opportunity to translate the work of Manual Duall for the series anthology. Dick also invited me to contribute to a brief talk on poetry-translation with two other poet-translators at Berkely Books.
     At around the same time, author, performance artist and friend of Trelex Anne Marsella invited me to take part in a feminist salon at her home. A wonderful night, six women, of different disciplines and philosophies, joined together to create a night of poetry, music and performance art. Anne’s living room was packed with people, an enthusiastic audience of Parisian intellectuals, journalists, makers and critics. The party after was a blast.
     Later that night, I returned to the garret to take part in, via skype, a reading in New York. Hosted by artist Katrina del Mar to celebrate the opening of her show  Feral Women: Filmed Portraits  at the Leslie+Lohman Prince Street Project, I joined an all-star line up that included poets Eileen Myles, Pamela Sneed, Ml Elberg, and del Mar herself, followed by musical performances by Karyn Kuhl, Genny Slag, Kaki King and Fiona Silver.
     January 15th arrived too soon.
     Living in New York, survival is a scramble. One must work so hard just to live. Writing poems can feel like an indulgence. The further I move from a consistent practice, the more hopeless, foolish even, the entire enterprise comes to seem. What even is a poet? And who, especially now, needs poems? In my time at Trelex, Paris, I remembered. Me.
     Once, in my twenties, I didn’t leave the five boroughs of New York City for three years- the stretch only broken by a friend’s invitation to housesit for her upstate. Arriving at the Woodstock bus stop, I felt gutted, emptied out, as though, in breathing fresh air and seeing uninterrupted sky, my soul could finally acknowledge the experiential poverty of the years prior. That week, swimming in fresh water, walking barefoot in soil, I remembered how deeply I am bound with nature, how it fills me, how there I live.
     An image that comes to mind is that of the English Bulldog, who, inbred through generations in conformity to an unnatural standard ,  can not breathe adequately. This accounts for breed members’ characteristic wheeze and sluggishness. Hooked up to oxygen, a slobbery, lethargic bulldog will become energetic, lively, itself, as it breathes fully for perhaps the first time in its life.
     My time at Trelex was not unlike this. In the time and space the garret provided, I could write; writing, I could breath.
     Showing up to my desk everyday, for hours at a stretch, I was able to push past, through continuous attention, problems that have blocked me for years, problems that I was unable to solve in the hours here-and-there on evenings and weekends that normally form my writing schedule.
     After days of sitting - writing, erasing, getting nothing done - the poem would appear out of nowhere, in a kind of ghost-form, a shapely brain vapor. And so, I would come to know, suddenly, what needed to be. However, without that initial time and attention, often a tendious, desperate affair, this all-of-the-sudden-ness would never have occurred, would not have been allowed to occur. In the days, weeks, months, (often frustrating, even painful) that follow this initial intuition, I would then try to find out just how to manifest it.
     And so I made poems. And when I did it right, they were true.
     Six months after my stay at Elizabeth’s, I remain homesick for that alcove in the rooftops of Montparnasse where I became a writer again.
     Speaking last night with Kevin Holden, the garrett's current resident, at a poetry reading at Reid Hall, I acknowledged my awe of Elizabeth and Nina. I remain humbled by these women, the force of their commitment and their generosity.
     Thank you, Trelex team. You are a gift and a wonder.