Sunday 12 June 2022

From Donna Glee Williams

14 March - 12 June 2022

It’s been a year since my blessed, blissed-out stay at the Trelex Poetry Garret.  I’ve had time to let the water still, the bubbles rise, and the sand settle out, and here’s what I think:

I came to Paris when my latest novel (The Night Field, Quercus, 2023 was in the hands of editors, sensitivity readers, proofreaders.  Tears had been shed, therapist consulted, as my British publication team did their level best to “Anglicize” my oh-so-American voice.  A bit battered, a bit starved, I hungered to settle into my poet-brain again. That’s what Trelex did for me.

I wrote beside Baudelaire’s grave. (I left him a little note.) Beside de Beauvoir’s.  Beside the tomb of Heloise and Abelard.  Along the banks of the Seine. In too many cathedrals to name. In a corner niche of Shakespeare and Company.  And, good God almighty, in Les Deux Magots.

Something else I did—maybe not as important as the actual writing, but still—was taking the time to submit. It turned out that, when I got down to it, I’d been writing a fair amount of raw poetry through the whole process of bringing my beloved The Night Field to life.  But I hadn’t done the work of revisiting, mining, polishing, and submitting my raw scrawls.  Paris gave me time to do carry some of those efforts over the goal line, raking in a good bundle of rejections, but some acceptances, too—include one I’m particularly proud of, to come out in the summer of 2023 in SageWoman to a much larger general audience than most of my poetry has reached.

Here’s why I urge my creative friends to sign up for Trelex:

1. Paris. ‘Nuff said

2. Novelty. We are the offspring of a zillion generations of creatures who hoarded their energy by relaxing in familiar surroundings and rousing to high-level alertness in novel situations that might pose new survival challenges. We are evolutionarily programmed to have our minds and senses be more awake in new environments. Mind and senses awake—that’s what you need to write poetry

3. Escape from responsibilities and routines.  When we are not sliding along the deep grooves of our daily habits and jobs, anything can happen. And, in Paris, it does!

4. Escape from the people who know us and know how we will react.  When you walk with strangers, you can be anyone you want, try on new identities, new personalities. No one will know.  No one will tell on you. You can take a new name, dress differently, write differently.  

When my residency began, Paris was in the middle of a covid surge as steep as the Eiffel Tower. I’m an old woman, one of the people that really shouldn’t get covid if they can possibly dodge it. So I didn’t do everything I would have done if I’d gone before our world changed in 2020, and I grieved for that.  Restaurants, shows, talking with strangers—not so much.  But I decided that if this was the Paris I was offered, this was the Paris I would take.  And, when the world goes dark, I will be able to say that I was a poet in Paris. 

I hope you will be, too.

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