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Poems On / About PARIS  11/28/2015 2:11:26 PM
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Paris, Native Land

We'll go to Paris
There we shall lay our stone
Teuta, Genti will not be expecting us
The savage Roman hordes will not be expecting us
No one will be expecting us
To Paris we shall go
We shall hang our dreams on stork wings
At a fountain we shall wash our eyes, our wart-covered hands
We shall leave the Balkan nights behind us
the dances, the songs, the ballads, the tales
The flute alone we shall take with us
To play whenever we are homesick
when we get lost in the crowds of drunks
in the shadows
amongst the rats
Late at night in the streets of Paris in the frantic metro
We shall smell the fragrance of the quince from our native land
With our fingers we will talk of vile times
We shall not step on any ants
We shall not frighten any birds
We shall vent neither hellfire nor spleen
upon the head of man
We shall not bow to a torpid Europe
nor to any deranged gods
Promise me Lum Lumi
That we will not forget our native land

(Paris 1981)
Ali Podrimja

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It's Paris, You Know!

Standing inside the bus
holding on to the overhead hand strap
we sway to the rhythms of Paris
reflecting in the vitrines.

Paris in Springtime skips
window to window
dancing before 4 eyes
gazing in tandem out of the bus.

Dressed all snappy we ride
watching out for the Eiffel bus stop.
Meanwhile I write
three poems and toss them

into a carrefour fountain under three coins.
I envision another five poems.
to be written inside a pebble
with five interconnected holes

communicating with each other
by sound wavelength frequency.
Ear to ear like mouth to mouth.
Well, it's Paris, you know.

A silver wall plaque zips by, it reads,
Here resided Mistinguett.
I melt tho she was well before my time
and unlike the street sparrow Piaf

every time I hear her sing my throat throbs
my eyes tear
I break to pieces
Well, it's Paris, you know.
Alex Nodopaka

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Demanding either ahs or chuckles,
I am an artist who swashbuckles,
performing before ears that hear,
and eyes that read, what is most dear
to the magician in me, sleight
of mouth with which I gravitate
above the ground of common sense,
beyond the past and present tense,
by twisting words like wires Calder
once twisted, and the authors Alter
has found in many Bible tales
twist words as if they were entrails,
serious topics that with whimsy
fligh high with fancies that sound flimsy.

Without ifs or ans or buts
my poems, aiming for the guts,
have spirals echoing the mobiles
of Calder, with phonetic foibles
I hope the reader will enjoy
as if they were a mobile toy
whose batteries won’t fall apart
unless they’re battered by your heart.

Holland Cotter reviews an exhibition of the work of Alexander Calder (The Paris Years,1926-33) in the Whitney Museum (“Calder at Play: Whimsy in Simple Wire, ” NYT, October 17,2008) : :
Calder didn’t start out with ambitions to be an artist; if anything, he was pulled in the opposite direction. He watched his father, a professional sculptor, fret over commissions and struggle with money. So when it came time for college the young Calder chose an engineering school in New Jersey over art school. But of course he was an artist, a natural. He may just not have known at first what that meant. Even as a child he was astonishingly inventive. The tiny figure of a rocking-horse-style bird shaped from brass sheeting is, for economy of form and conceptual daring, one of the more radical works in the show. He made it when he was 11. He made stuff all the time. He was one of those people with nonstop eyes and hands: every scrap of stray matter was a candidate for transformation. Give him some wire, clothespins and a scrap of cloth and, presto chango, you had a bird or a cow or a circus clown: nothing, then something, which is what magic is. There’s a hyperactive pace to his early career. While working at engineering jobs after college, he was also drawing like crazy and designing toys. In 1923 he enrolled at the Art Students League to study painting; John Sloan and George Luks were his teachers. At the same time he took on illustrating gigs for publications like The New Yorker and The National Police Gazette. His academic drawings from the time are gauche and ordinary. The staying-still-in-a-studio they required obviously cramped his style. Much fresher is the dashed-off, manic-looking magazine work. And his Ash Can School-type paintings of New York scenes — a drunken party; a trip to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus — have a gawky spark of life. Then there are his pen-and-ink drawings of zoo animals. They’re in a different category, almost by a different artist, one more relaxed and assured. Often done as one continuous line, they are like an effortlessly sophisticated form of penmanship. So are some of the openwork sculptures of bent and twisted wire that he began to experiment with at this time. In 1926, with all these balls in the air, he suddenly moved to Paris, because motion for him was a stimulant and because he felt that Paris was the hot place to be, which it was. With its crowded cafes, charged thinking, endless talking and jumpy personalities, the city was hyperkinetic. Calder fell in love with it. And, although he continued to return to New York for long stretches, he made Paris his home base for seven years. His wire sculpture took off there. Several examples in the form of portrait heads are the first thing you see when you step off the elevator on the Whitney’s fourth floor. They’re an arresting sight, in a gently wow-inspiring way. Wows were what Calder was after, along with chuckles and satisfied ahs. He was a showman, a performer. “See what I can do, right before your eyes, without even trying? ” his art seems to say.

gershon hepner

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If poetry’s pronounced prosaic,
like Prozac thought to be archaic,
prescribed for those who are depressed,
with prose preferred by all the rest,
should I consider that I’m dated,
out-rhymed and out-alliterated
by cruel haters of all verse
who poetry pooh-pooh and curse,
especially the rhyming kind
to which prose preachers are unkind
more than to verse so free it looks
like prose that’s printed in their books?

Of course I’m dated, but so what?
Prose writer is what I am not
by birth or inclination, so forgive
the way I write so I can live
with meter, rhyme, and let me scan,
though I am an archaic man,
and keep you daily up to date
with verse that prose-pros love to hate.

Inspired by an article on Kurt Weill by Matthew Gurewitsch in the NYT on November 19 [“The Weill (Almost) Nobody Knows]. Gurewitsch writes about a revival of Weill’s “Maria Galante, ” which Weill wrote in Paris in 1934. It is written in the acid style that made “Threepenny Opera” such a success, and which he abandoned afer he emigrated to the United States. Acid style wsa to Weill what rhyme is to me:

Festive as the title may sound, “Marie Galante” — based on a novel by Jacques Deval — turns out to be a gritty shocker. It opened to mixed reviews on Dec.22,1934, when Weill was in Paris, on the run from the Nazis, and closed the first week of January 1935. (A Jewish cantor’s son, Weill was born in Germany in 1900. He got out just in time, in 1933. In 1935 he landed in New York, where he died in 1950.) A foundling and born sex kitten, Marie blossoms quickly, giving herself freely at first, just for pleasure. Then she starts taking money because she has to. When a ship captain dumps her in Panama, she lucks into higher fees spying but pays with her life.Mr. Clarac, the director, relates “Marie Galante” to a tradition of film noir that continued in France long past the war years, citing titles like “Le Quai des Brumes, ” “Pépé le Moko” and “Les Orgueilleux.” But it is also very much a product of its time and place. “The plays in Paris then were not nice and pink and sweet, ” Mr. Clarac said recently from Marie’s home port of Bordeaux, which is his home also. “The idea was that stories set in a very simple, poor, low-class milieu achieve a kind of universality. Everyone is kind of blasé, tired, washed out. There are no happy characters in ‘Marie Galante.’ Panama may sound exotic, but for those who live there, it is not. It’s superhot and superhumid, nobody has any money and everyone is in exile.” Several songs from “Marie Galante” popularized by Weill specialists like Teresa Stratas and Ute Lemper are sung not by Marie but by other drifters and misfits. The lyrics, by Deval and Roger Fernay, are rough stuff, conjuring nightmares of sexual degradation, mutilation, a boy-eating ogre, a train bound for glory and a fairy-tale king who cheats on the queen. Weill’s music gives them punch and edge and sometimes a desperate longing. His score also features a ravishing instrumental number, which Fernay at an unknown later date retrofitted with lyrics as “Youkali: Tango Habañera.” The vocal version was published in Paris in 1946. The New York production assigns it to Marie, an unauthorized choice but one that seems hard to fault. To Ms. Bayrakdarian the tango is “the song and dance of the common people, the oppressed and disadvantaged, helpless strangers in a strange land, desperately seeking escape.” “Marie embodies these qualities, ” Ms. Bayrakdarian continued. “She is fiery but inconsolable, always hoping for salvation, for Utopia. As for ‘J’Attends un Navire, ’ I believe the song is her mantra to distance herself from her harsh reality, the song she sings to herself every time she has a new customer.”

gershon hepner

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Poems On / About PARIS