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The unfolding of a season

by joanie 

Posted: 04 April 2005
Word Count: 270
Summary: My attempt at the 20 point exercise in Poetry Seminar.

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From gnarled rods, centuries old,
spring-green curtains trail their hems
in the Seine. Bateaux-mouches skim by,
fly-eyes bulging with wide-eyed travellers,
bit torrents streaming with the flow.

Lazy joggers taste a favourite ipod tune
while Figaro readers (far less likely
to experience cardiac failure) sip a café
and smoke a Gitane, ignoring a pending
liver problem. La Tour Eiffel

stretches in the afternoon sun, sighs
and resumes her sentry post, looking
down with wry amusement at armies
of swarming ants, intent only on nibbling
a piece of Gay Paree to march back

to home camp. joanie sits bare-armed against
the sun in spring, bag clutched tight against
invisible snatchers, while Pierre (or André
or Guillaume) strolls, thrutched up in winter
scarves, avec sa femme ou son tout petit chien.

Along the banks, in open squares, the easy
elegance of rollers complements the elegant
ease of Parisians at leisure. Pierre, doffing
his woollen burdens, joins them, arthritic joints
oiled by imagination, an old body liberated

by the infection of the season. Next week
the strong black coffee and cigarettes
will take their toll, but Pierre will rest
content; he has felt the rush of wind
on his face. Peace is pierced

by jolly jingles instantly quelled by bare-bellied
beauties (they think) or anxious mates away
from home, so calm soon rears its ugly head.
The cappuccino froth of contentment floats
in the air but this could never be Italy.

A single cigarette wafts spiralling smoke
on the breeze; a chic scarf winds itself
effortlessly around a long neck; a lunch-time carafe
of rosé sparkles its invitation to enjoy
Paris in April.

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Comments by other Members

Nell at 19:43 on 04 April 2005  Report this post
Hi joanie,

A few first impressions - love spring-green curtains trail their hems/in the Seine... that image of the bateaux-mouches, the personification of the Eiffel Tower. 'Joanie' was a surprise - suddenly you're there, bare-armed in the middle of Paris among the passers-by, the snippet of French adding to the flavour. I hesitated over ...calm soon rears its ugly head... as for me calm is probably the most desirable thing in the world. Wonderfully atmospheric - you've really taken us to Paris in the spring, and those images in the last stanza remain in the mind - I can almost smell the cigarette. Will return to read again.


joanie at 08:08 on 05 April 2005  Report this post
Nell, thanks. I totally agree about the 'calm........' - that was the result of one of the 20 things to include. (I can't remember which one now without going back and ticking them off again!) Perhaps I'll re-think that.

I'm pleased you thought it atmospheric.


Ticonderoga at 15:17 on 05 April 2005  Report this post
Can only agree with Nell; this is a remarkably atmospheric piece. I only have one tiny cavil: un petit peut de trop of the old Francais, perhaps, for non-speakers? But, a really lovely piece.



Elsie at 15:59 on 05 April 2005  Report this post
Joanie, sorry for the delay. I've been running a round a bit. (Not literally, unfortunately; ) And there's so much going on in here - when I first read it I remember thinking how true, about us Brits getting our limbs out at the first sign of sun, when the europeans keep well wrapped up. For me, favourite's are:

From gnarled rods, centuries old,
spring-green curtains trail their hems
in the Seine.

and the last stanza. I also like the idea of the crowd as ants.

I wasn't sure what the 'jolly jingles' was? I wouldn't worry personally about ticking all the boxes - I think the point of an exercise is to spark something you like, and feel free to abandon any parts you don't want. The whole point is to write something different, but you want to keep, I feel. What do you think?


joanie at 16:20 on 05 April 2005  Report this post
Thanks, Elsie, both for your response and the exercise. Yes, it is good to write something different, sparked off by an exercise or whatever!

The jolly jingles were mobiles.

I enjoyed the challenge.


joanie at 16:23 on 05 April 2005  Report this post
Thanks, Mike. Glad you liked it. I have taken a bit of français out.


fevvers at 17:46 on 08 April 2005  Report this post

I have a worry. Not about the poem but about taking out a section because the reader might not read French. I don't read or speak French but I can appreciate its use in a poem, and it's for the writer to tease some of the meaning out in the poem, to help the reader along. Or even footnotes.

What do other people think about using foreign languages in poetry?

joanie at 17:55 on 08 April 2005  Report this post
Interesting thought, fevvers! I have to say that when I have read poems on WW which contain language I don't understand, I have felt that it has added to the whole feel of the poem and I wouldn't really want it taken out.


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