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Poets Live – David Barnes, Bibi Jacob and Fiona Sze-Lorrain

Poets Live – David Barnes, Bibi Jacob and Fiona Sze-Lorrain

Review by Missy Green. 

Poet’s live was resurrected last Tuesday night from summer holiday. In the underground stone and wooden fortress (with absolutely perfect acoustics), 3 poets presented on a Parisianly wet and windy evening at Carr’s Irish Pub.

First reader, David Barnes, was down with a cold but it didn’t keep him from reading (like it did from him drinking). David’s poetry was bitter, condemning, dizzying, and funny for brief moments before plunging into sadness. He works with series of images to overlay one at a time into an overall feeling.

He set a bittersweet tone for the night in his piece about Paris, filled with piss and the “notre damned.” He’s still in love with the city of lights, even if “Paris tastes like 500 euro bills and never wanted children.” Another poem was bleak and lonely, with the words “blank as eyeballs lost in a suitcase of marbles” and ending with “the world goes its merry way to hell.”

David took us through intimate scenes of his life at home filled with painful isolation and alientation from family where “winter was outside, inside was…death,” through the hardships of a brother with schizophrenia, and a drunk night which unfolded in a beautiful kiss with another man.

Next to grace the stage was Bibi Jacob, whose energetic presence offers her as a fantastic reader (she’s a voice performer by trade for cryin’ out loud!) Bibi’s words are clear and powerful. Her vivid poetry transports the reader into a colorful realm of fantasy where “golden beetles” fly into “humid palms.” Her world is where you can fall through a marble crack in your kitchen.

In the poem Hair, people warn her about her hair’s liability saying, “careful, the demons will pull you under.” They didn’t know that her hair “coils, thickens, and roots itself at night.” It’s no wonder she cut it all off.

Later Bibi is “schlacked” by a wave of mud which offers her either money or war as her fate. Bibi breaks from the descriptive narration to comically interject, “is that my only choice?? a bit limited…” Wrong answer.

As her top oddest job, a diamond messenger, Bibi wore deep pockets and transported expensive stones with only occassional “dreams of flights to the Far East, a life of ease.” Glittery City, poem and title of her chap book is a sparkling illumination of London inspired by her time as a diamond messenger. The poem reveals the shine flecked in each person with star splinters, flashes, twinkling, and little diamond bits everywhere.

As someone who doesn’t drink, Fiona Sze-Lorrain was a bit shy doing her first reading ever in a pub. Her tall, slender presence made her a perfectly poised zen tower. She opened with a dark poem taking place at her own funeral. She constructs a solemn scene of mourning before a humorous twist at the end. “Everyone should attend their own funeral, don’t forget to RSVP.”

Beautifully descriptive, her penetration into multiple cultures transpires through her words. Fiona uses temperature to draw out physical sensations in the reader such as music must be “must be water at room temperature – with no edges.” She also uses synesthesia with phrases like “blue dream.” Her sense of humor lightens her generally dark poetry. In her poem on Paris she writes, “lesson #1 don’t pick up the spoon with the fork.” In another poem, “God is absent but the concierge will return.”

Fiona didn’t flinch reading an erotic poem she translated from a post-post-cultural revolution Chinese poet saying, “you can be a key entering my key hole…Dear – you are a greedy dog…my cry is not a scream.” This poem warmed up everybody’s evening.

Through bitter, fantastical and dark, Poet’s live awaits its next installment in October.


David Barnes is a British psychotherapist, teacher, poet and short-story writer who has lived in Paris since 2003. His prose explores relationships and his poetry ranges from love poetry to humour to polemic. He founded and hosts the hugely popular SpokenWord Paris open mic series and The Other Writers’ Group at Shakespeare and Co. He is the Editor of The Bastille magazine and was the Prose Editor of Strangers in Paris: New Writing Inspired by the City of Light. He won Shakespeare & Company’s short story competition Travel in Words in 2006. He has been published in Upstairs at Duroc, Spot Lit Magazine, 34th Parallel, Retort Magazine and elsewhere.

Bibi Jacob studied literature at King’s College, Cambridge and theatre at the Ecole Jacques Lecoq, Paris. Having worked as a diamond messenger, busker, storyteller, tutor and theatre performer, she is now settled in the City of Light as a voice actor. Her writing has appeared in issue.ZERO, The Bastille, Paragram, Belleville Park Pages and on the website. She regularly performs her work and her Poets Live reading marks the launch of her chapbook, Glittery City.

Fiona Sze-Lorrain writes and translates in English, Chinese and French. Born in Singapore, she grew up in a hybrid of cultures and studied in the UK and the US before obtaining her PhD from Paris IV-Sorbonne. Her first collection of poetry, Water the Moon, appeared in 2010 and her latest collection, My Funeral Gondola, came out this spring. In addition to her four books of translation of contemporary Chinese poets and her prose translations of Hai Zi, she has translated Romanian-born French poet Ghérasim Luca and American poet Mark Strand. She is the co-editor of several anthologies, the co-founder of Cerise Press and a contributing editor to Mãnoa. With Gao Xingjian, she co-authored Silhouette/Shadow: The Cinematic Art of Gao Xingjian. She currently works as an editor at Vif Éditions, Paris. Also a zheng harpist, she has performed worldwide. Her CD, In One Take, was released in 2010.

Next POETS LIVE reading will be October 15, 2013.

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