Tuesday 9 July 2019

From Eléna Rivera

1 March - 31 May 2019

At the exact half-way point in my residency (I had just been looking at the Caravaggio’s in a very crowded Louvre—irritated by all the people rushing to see the Mona Lisa) I heard that Notre Dame was on fire. Notre Dame?! I walked and walked and walked, trying to wear out anxious emotions which this terrible event had arisen in me. It became a way to think of my residency, before the fire and after the fire; it became a marker. 

Before the fire there was watching spring flowers and new leaves arrive first slowly then in profusion; there was a pink tree in the Jardin du Luxembourg (an acajou de Chine ‘Flamingo’); there were days spent at the American Library writing and reading; there was swimming at the foot of the Tour Montparnasse and Qi Gong in the park; there was Agnès Varda’s death; and there was a deep sense of solitude that I hadn’t experienced in years that stimulated my imagination as I faced the blank page. 

After the fire, I became more focused in my writing; I started missing Russell; the Gilets Jaunes kept marching on Saturdays. There were solitary days and days of meetings with poet and artist friends; Wim Wenders on the ceiling and walls of the Grand Palais at midnight; more readings (including one of my own for the Ivy Series at Berkeley books); Franz Marc and Auguste Macke at the Orangerie; Hammershøi at the Musée Jacquemart; the stained glass at the Sainte-Chapelle; and always there was writing at the Jardin du Luxembourg, at a café, on my couch, and at the kitchen table. 

The Trelex Poetry Residency made it possible for me to focus on poetry and the imaginative, without concern to the results of my endeavors. It also provided solitude such as I hadn’t experience in a long time in a way that made understanding certain things about myself possible. Kindness and generosity were shown to me time and time again. Walking home after a reading, the sheer joy of being in those Parisian streets at dusk. 

Friendships, solitude, the importance of the arts, the balance between community and solitude; what gifts! Many thanks to Nina Rodin and Elizabeth Hansen and to everyone at Trelex who made my residency possible, the reverberations of which I will be experiencing for a long time to come.

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