Review by Lucy Binnersley. Photographs by Kate Noakes (with technical assistance from Viola Manfra).
Spring has not sprung. It’s cold and it’s raining (actually, I think it’s hail). So instead of staying in to contemplate turning my heating back on, I head to this month’s Ivy Writers. The Delaville Cafe is a welcome retreat from the rather miserable month of May. The Delaville really is a perfect setting for Ivy Writers – decadent, yet not imposing, with a truly inviting ambiance. The décor of the huge venue is a delight, a lively mixture of ancient gilt rococo and post-industrial baroque furniture. If you’re wondering what sort of past could have produced all this ancient marble and tempered steel, the café’s previous incarnations included being a brothel in Napoleon’s Paris in the 19th century (hou la la). The pomp of its past has left us with the staircase, all marble and iron fretwork, colonnades, ceilings of sculpted wood and the bar’s elegant gilded mosaics. And the red sofa that I managed to nab was comfy too. So comfy that I no longer cared if it was raining outside.
The first poet up this month was Deborah Poe. Deborah is the author of a number of poetry collections, including The Last will be Stone, too (Stockport Flats, 2013), Elements (Stockport Flats, 2010), and Our Parenthetical Ontology (CustomWords, 2008), as well as a novella in verse, Hélène (Furniture Press, 2012). And it was from her hybrid novella that Deborah read. Poe’s Foucault-inspired narrative tells of a girl manufacturing silk in 19th century France who imagines the romance of making silk in China instead. I was really drawn to this concept as I admit to being more of a fan of novella than of poetry.
What I first loved about this page was Poe’s use of anaphora (the repetition of a phrase at the beginning of a sentence):
The benefactor offered something other than work on farms.
The benefactor set out to board, lodge, and clothe girls as well as give them wages.
The benefactor built the silk factory.
The benefactor taught the art of silk.
No, the benefactor taught the manufacturing of silk.
The benefactor became the hero of the country.
The benefactor found docile bodies.
Repetition entrances and highlights the dullness of a factory environment: the art of making silk and the manufacturing of silk are not the same. The dream is not the same as reality. ‘One could easily be in another state’ – the weight of anti-climax and misguided aspirations weighs heavily throughout the novella. It is both haunting and liberating. Poe weaves a delicate pattern of words, and one of the things I would enjoy spending more time with it is unravelling the strands of logic that make the larger tapestry.
Watch Deborah Poe read from Hélène:
Next up was another Deborah. Since leaving a career in education Debora Heissler has seen the publication of two anthologies of poetry ( Her most recent anthology being titled Comme un morceau de nuit, Cheyne, 2010). And along with Deborah came Jacob Bromberg, who has translated her poetry into English to show that not all performers this evening had to be called Deborah. We were treated to a bi-lingual reading of Debora’s poem “Like a swatch of night cut out of its own cloth”. The beautiful tranquillity of this seemed to complement the view of Paris I could glimpse out of the window with her ‘golden light and sinking shadows of the evening.’
It just rained in torrents for a few minutes,
The birds previously colourless now even seemed to fly without shape
What happens next almost seems to elude me.
Deborah’s poetical eloquence was heard again during the reading of her poem “A Few Simple Figures.” Lines and phrases that really stood out included, ‘ could no longer distinguish far or near….(like) a long line of fugitives under the snow’and ‘We’ve hit on something/ Hit on something so cold all from the ear to the heart is touched.’ Her poems have an intensity that are perfectly balanced by their beauty. If only the same could be said about the Parisian weather at the moment.
Watch Déborah read from Comme un morceau de nuit, translated by Jacob Bromberg:
BIOS AND PHOTOS COURTESY OF IVY WRITERS PARIS AND THE AUTHORS, for more information or to follow this reading series please see their blog here, their facebook group here or email your info for their readings emailings at firstname.lastname@example.org
Deborah Poe is the author of the poetry collections The last will be stone, too (Stockport Flats, 2013), Elements (Stockport Flats, 2010), and Our Parenthetical Ontology (CustomWords, 2008), as well as a novella in verse, Hélène (Furniture Press, 2012) and many chapbooks, including the recent Keep (above/ground, 2012). In addition, Deborah is co-editor of Between Worlds: An Anthology of Fiction and Criticism (Peter Lang). She is currently co-editing a collection of Hudson Valley innovative poetry for Station Hill Press. She has also had work in journals such as Handsome, Eccolinguistics, 1913, Shampoo, Denver Quarterly, The Dictionary Project, Bone Bouquet, Mantis and Horse Less Review. She is assistant professor of English at Pace University and founder and curator of the annual Handmade / Homemade Exhibit.
Deborah Poe is thrilled to be coming back to France to celebrate the publication of her hybrid book Hélène. The book’s conception was fueled by a Michele Foucault comment in Discipline & Punish, which mentioned Jujurieux. As Poe worked on her book, she went to Jujurieux and Lyon in spring 2007 to complete research, and the novella in verse was published in fall 2012 with Furniture Press in the USA.
About Hélène, Cole Swenson writes: “Deborah Poe’s 19th century heroine Hélène finds herself in the elaborate trap of a “factory-convent,” manufacturing silk in western France—and her only release is the fantasy of producing it, instead, in China. … Poe’s handling of language throughout the book is nothing less than liberating, and yet it’s also arresting—… her acrobatically precise and dynamic balance between research and attention allows the reader to be simultaneously transported beyond and riveted to the present. A major accomplishment, and a haunting one.”
Deborah Poe’s newest poetry collection, the last will be stone, too—is a limited edition of 100 (from Stockport Flats Press). Critics declare that: “Deborah Poe’s the last will be stone, too is wildly ambitious and gorgeously successful–a series of poems based on artwork engaging somehow with death, from artists as diverse as Andres Serrano and the fashioners of Tutankhamen’s funeral collar. The poems enact for us a vision of human consciousness contemplating its own end” (Suzanne Paola). “Deborah Poe writes: to walk into unknown center / to witness what silence can do. Here is a book that embodies these gestures and, with compassion, invites us to participate” (Selah Saterstrom). For more on Poe see: http://www.deborahpoe.com
Debora Heissler was born in 1976 in Mulhouse (to a Polish mother and a French father). Today she is an author, having left a career in education. Since the publication of her second anthology of poetry (Comme un morceau de nuit, Cheyne, 2010) – partly written in Hunan, China – was recognized by the Yvan Groll international prize for French Poetry in 2011 as well as the Luois Guillaume prose award in 2012. Currently, she is in residence at Rennes thanks to CNL at the Villa Beauséjour (at the Maison de la poésie) where she will be until 2013.
She has also had an interesting past: in 1988, she won the Académie Française’s Antoinette at Pol Neveux writing scholarship and studied piano. Meanwhile, she studied contemporary literature and IT at the University of Haute Alsace. She received the Bleustein-Blanchet Foundation Prize in 2005 (for her first collection, Près d’eux, Cheyne) and began publishing. In spring 2007, she worked at Opéra Garnier with Roger Pic’s photography and there discovered Jiří Kilián, Pina Bausch, Angelin Preljoçaj, William Christie and Nicolas Le Riche. She then left the National Library of France for India. She then took numerous trips to China, Thailand and Vietnam where she taught French. Since the publication of her second collection in spring 2011, she has obtained a scholarship from the Franche-Comté Regional Center. For more information, see her site at: http://deborahheissler.blogspot.fr/ Jacob Bromberg is a poet, translator, and contributing editor to The White Review. He lives in Paris where he co-organizes the IVY Writers reading series. His work has appeared online and in print as part of the 2012 “Lex-ICON” text and image project in Mulhouse, France. Most recently, he has collaborated with visual artist Camille Henrot, writing the words to her film Grosse fatigue, to be featured at the 2013 Venice Biennale. The translations he will read tonight for IVY Writers Paris are part of a larger project for which he was invited to Rennes with Deborah Heissler this May as part of her writer’s residency.