20---> erin & wright

Name: Erin Gendron
Hometown: Allegan, Michigan
Current City: Atlanta, GA
Occupation: Writer/educator
Age): post-modern

What does poetry mean to you?

Poetry is the connective tissue between experience and explanation. It is the stuff that holds the pieces together so that we can find and experience greater meaning.

Favorite Poet/Poem

I will always feel something when I read James Wright’s “A Blessing.”

Why do you like this poet/poem?

The smell of the air, the hum of the spring insects, the heat lifting from the horses; I experience all of these things, including the lightness in my chest that Wright alludes to at the end. This electric feeling that you get (if you’re very lucky) when you happen upon something that is truly good. Those moments can make you feel so alive and so filled with gratitude. As you can tell by my explanation, it’s a hard thing to describe, but somehow, Wright captures it perfectly.

19---> perry & ferlinghetti


Name: Perry Guevara
Hometown: Birmingham, AL
Current City: Atlanta, GA
Occupation: PhD Candidate
Age: 30

What does poetry mean to you? 

Poetry is language in extremis, reaching for the edges of legibility as it attempts to speak the ineffable.

Favorite Poets: 

Since the age of 16, I’ve loved the poems of Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I’ve read A Coney Island of the Mind more times than I can count. I also love Edna St. Vincent Millay, Frank O'Hara, and John Donne, especially his holy sonnets.

Favorite Poem

Nanas de la Cebolla” by Miguel Hernandez

Why do you like this poem? 

“Nanas de la Cebolla,” or “Lullaby of the Onion,” demonstrates language under duress. It refuses to surrender its lyricism and remembers that tenderness is possible even in desperation. Robert Bly beautifully translated this poem to English, but Joan Manuel Serrat’s 1972 musical version is simply stunning. Here’s my favorite verse:

En la cuna del hambre
mi niño estaba.
Con sangre de cebolla
se amamantaba.
Pero tu sangre,
escarchada de azúcar,
cebolla y hambre.

18---> emily & eliot


Name: Emily Ruck Keene
Hometown: Oxfordshire, England
Current City: Paris, France
Occupation: Editor and Co-Host of Paris Lit Up
Age: 28

What does poetry mean to you?

For me, poetry—writing and reading—is a unique personal experience, by which I mean that everyone can find something different in it. It might be writing a poem to express your political standpoint or reading a poem on loss that triggers a reaction in you. There is a silent dialogue between the words, the writer, and the reader that I find beautiful.

Favorite Poem:  “Portrait of a Lady” by T.S. Eliot

Why do you like this poem?

Eliot’s was a complicated personality, but his poetic genius can’t be denied. “Portrait of a Lady” is an excellent example of Eliot’s (in)famous reputation for having a ‘smug’ voice, his weaving of references like a tapestry, and the moments of fragility that catch the reader unawares:

“I feel like one who smiles, and turning shall remark
Suddenly, his expression in a glass.        
My self-possession gutters; we are really in the dark.”

17---> joe & tranströmer


Name: Joe Ross

Current City: Paris 

Previous Places: PA, D.C., CA

Occupation: That would be nice.  In the mean time: writing, coaching, teaching, being present, and with those I meet.

Age:  Current

What does poetry mean to you?  

Poetry is a place of wander, wonder, connection, music, discovery, transmission, wisdom, fun, truth, experimentation, mystery, renewal, beauty, hope, essence, and sometimes something to dance to.

Favorite Poet:  

The one I’m reading.  Currently, Tomas Tranströmer.

Why do you like this poet/poem?  

Friendship, attention, being,  use of  metaphor, image, music, honesty, truth, humanity, and connection.

A poem from Tranströmer:


On the subway platform.

A crowd among billboards

in a staring dead light.

The train comes and fetches

faces and briefcases.

Darkness next. We sit

like statues in the cars

hauled into the tunnels.

Strain, dreams, strain.

At stations below sea level

the news of darkness is sold.

People moving melancholy,

mum, beneath clockfaces.

The train carries a load

of street clothes and souls.

Looks in all directions,

passing through the mountain.

Nothing changing yet.

But near the surface begins

the hum of freedom’s bees.

We emerge from the earth.

The countryside flaps its wings

once, and then subsides

under us, wide and greenish.

Shucks of corn blow in

across the platforms.

End of the line! I ride

beyond the end of the line.

How many aboard? Four,

five, hardly more.

Houses, roads, skies,

fjords, mountains

have opened their windows.

16---> samantha & cervera


Nom: Samantha Barendson

Ville natale: Vilanova i la Geltrú (Espagne)

Ville actuelle: Lyon (France)

Travail: Poète

Âge: 39

*Qu'est-ce que signifie pour vous la poésie?

Pour celui qui lit, c'est avant tout un fourmillement dans l'estomac. La poésie touche les tripes,  bouleverse, émeut, fait jouir. Ensuite, pour celui qui écrit, c'est une façon de dire le monde, de le peindre, de rendre accessibles et universelles des visions et des captations de ce monde. (1)

*Poète préféré/ poème préféré:

Alfons Cervera (non disponible en français ou en anglais)

Difficile de faire un choix, il y a tant de poètes vivants de talent (Jean-Marc Flahaut, Thierry Roquet, Melchior Liboà,Claire Rengade, Natyot, Efe Duyan, Fernando de Leonardis, etc.) et tant de poètes fondateurs (William Blake, Federico García Lorca, René Char, etc.)

Exemple d'un poème de Thierry Roquet (in “9 petites choses sans importance”):

parfois tu ronfles fort

parfois tu parles dans ton sommeil

parfois tu cherches ta respiration

parfois tu te crispes de peur

dehors des papiers volent au vent

sous la pâle lumière d'un réverbère


*Pourquoi aimez-vous ce poète/ ce poème?

J'aime ce poème car il comporte tout ce que j'aime dans un poème: rythme, répétitions, quotidien, ambiance, corps, ouverture sur un autre espace, suspension. (3)


* The above questions are hopeful French equivalents to those conceived of and asked in English. They are in order: What does poetry mean to you?, Favorite poet/favorite poem?, and Why do you like this poet/poem?

Below are “sketch” translations of Samantha’s responses.

(1) For someone who reads, it is first and foremost a tingling in the stomach. Poetry touches the guts, overwhelms, moves, gives euphoria. Then, for someone who writes, it is a way to speak of the world, to paint, to make accessible and universal visions and recordings of this world. 

(2) Alfons Cervera (not available in French or English)

Difficult to make a choice, there is so much talent among the living poets (Jean-Marc Flahaut, Thierry Roquet, Melchior Liboa, Claire Rengade, Natyot, Efe Duyan, Fernando de Leonardis, etc.) and as founding poets (William Blake Federico García Lorca, René Char, etc.).

Example of a poem by Thierry Roquet (in “9 small unimportant things”):

sometimes you snore loudly

sometimes you talk in your sleep

sometimes you search for breath

sometimes you are clenched in fear

outside papers blow in the wind

under the pale light of a street lamp


I like this poem because it has everything I love in a poem: rhythm, repetition, an everyday mood, body, an opening to another space, suspension.

15---> kelly & the three way tie


Name: Kelly Jones 

Hometown: Raleigh, NC 

Current Cities: Raleigh, NC, and New Orleans, LA

Occupation: Bartender/Editor/Educator/Event Organizer/Writer

Age: 30

What does poetry mean to you?

Poetry, at its best, is the thing that everyone’s wanted to say but couldn’t figure out how to. Its calculated expression and unbridled thought; poems question the world and attack it from another angle. They make us think and feel and wonder and dream and hope and cry and smile and remember. Sometimes it means rhyme, meter, form, structure, etc., but I prefer to appreciate poems more for their content than their presentation.  As someone who writes poems, poetry also means creation, frustration, and revision. It means treasuring a thing that, when you boil it down, is just words and white space.

Favorite Poet/Poem:  

I don’t have a favorite poet, but I’ve got a three way tie going for favorite poem. Please, read them. I promise that you might like them.

Dream Song 4″ by John Berryman

For Saundra” by Nikki Giovanni

Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note” by Amiri Baraka  

Why do you like these poems?

“Dream Song 4” draws me in because of Mr. Bones and Henry’s conversation. The way they speak with each other and describe their world is captivating. And the way Berryman turns a phrase is so lovely and memorable.

“For Saundra” is hard and honest and questioning the world. It shows a smart woman who is tough and ready for revolution. When I first read that poem in middle or high school that was an unfamiliar character that I was excited to finally see.

“Preface…” is heart wrenching and I love it for that. It also does a damn good job of using an isolated line to make an impact.

14---> le comptoir général & senghor


Name : Le Comptoir Général
Hometown: Paris
Occupation: Ghetto Museum, bar, restaurant and concept-store. Our sustainable projects are the result of creativity that springs up in poor or marginalized places all over the world.

What does poetry mean to you?

Poetry can affect all generations, and make people consider anything from love to loss, indeed poetry does what little else can, it can inspire. Poetry is the power of love among everything.

Favorite Poem:
Femme Noire” from Léopold Sédar Senghor

Why do you like this poet/poem?

Leopold Sédar Senghor’s poetry is based on a desire and a hope to create a Universal Civilization, beyond the boundaries of traditions and differences of the people.

This specific poem is also a wonderful homage to all the women of the world, who are still oppressed and prosecuted every day.

13---> nancy & whitman


Name: Nancy Beteta

Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana

Current City: New Orleans

Occupation: Interior Design student at Delgado Community College 

Age: 22

What does poetry mean to you?

Poetry is an art with a unique language. To me it means a way of expressing yourself in a way that you want, without having any rules, while writing your deepest thoughts in a love language of your own.

Favorite Poet/Poem:  

Walt Whitman/ “Song of Myself

Why do you like this poet/poem?

I like him as a poet and this poem especially because he shares how he see this world through his eyes, and he shares what he longs for the most.

12---> will & lerner


Name: Will Cox
Hometown: Portland, Oregon
Current City: London
Occupation: Publisher/Co-Founder of the Belleville Park Pages
Age: 24

What does poetry mean to you? 

I like poetry because I find it the most freeing for personal interpretation, i.e. the reader can make with poetry what they will, even more than novels or the visual arts. That said, I think poetry is uncool because of its perceived elitism by the mass audience. It seems to have become a collegiate, intellectual pursuit, and I think art in that sphere doesn’t do a lot of good for society. I think writers need to focus on being more approachable in their work, as poetry is a perfect medium for modern creative writing, given that our attention spans are shrinking.

Favorite Poet/Poem:

Ben LernerAngle of Yaw

Why do you like this poet/poem?

The everyday epiphanies he finds. The visual directions and the way he orients the reader. The fact that his poems are short and consumable while still being work that you can come back to and learn from on multiple readings.

11---> cailey & longfellow


Name: Cailey Rizzo
Hometown: Buffalo, NY
Current City: Paris
Occupation: Au Pair / Freelance Journalist
Age: 21

What does poetry mean to you?

Poetry is the highest art form.  Correct me if I’m wrong—I really don’t think I am—but there’s something magical about elevating words (things we use every day; the most mundane, utilitarian tools; the roots of speech) to music. Putting a thought to rhythm is the most enviable skill. And, as a journalist, I sit in the corner and glower at poets for their ability to elevate my tools into art.  

Poetry holds a god-like status for me.  I, a mere mortal, could never handle the mythic power of a poet; I burp at the dinner table and end sentences with prepositions. But it wasn’t always like this. I learned to be afraid of poetry, to revere it as something greater than religion, and to leave it to the professionals.

The irony is that I became a published poet at five years old.  The poem, called “My Furby,” appeared in a school district newsletter with a selection of other young artists’ works.  I don’t remember much about the poem, but I’m pretty sure it was an intense, postmodern, lyrical examination of my relationship with my favorite toy, the eponymous My Furby.  (Just disregard the fact that at the time, my mother had not yet bought me a Furby, so this poem was just degenerate self-gratification—a common theme in poetry, I would later learn.)

Fast-forward eight years to a middle school English class and the month of April.  Thanks to a great teacher, I discovered Poe and Shakespeare and Yeats (it would take a few more years before I discovered the great female poets) and the joy of a rainy afternoon spent bent over a book of poetry.  For years, poetry remained this hidden thing.  I was passionate about scribbling my own secret rhymes into locked journals and sweating the lyrical prowess of Walt Whitman.
I turned 20 and had a Bell Jar-style breakdown, interning at a Bell Jar-style magazine in a skyscraper in a Bell Jar-style Manhattan.  Poetry turned into an escape.  I started to examine the adult lives of adult people in tall, shiny buildings; and the crazy lives of crazy kids smoking cigarettes, leaning against walls in the outer boroughs; and how it all ends—this self-destructive behavior pattern known as “being a New Yorker.”  

“We’re all killing ourselves slowly because suicide is boring,” I scrawled on the page after one particularly rowdy college party.  I smiled at my clever line and sent the half-poem off to poetry reviews under a pseudonym.  It was never published.  But that’s not the point.  

The point is that I love poetry, even if I’m no good at it.  I love falling and fawning over the open pages of a poetry anthology; I love the catharsis of rhyming and rhythmitizing my thoughts. The point is that it’s possible to love something as vast as poetry without putting it on a pedestal, and without debasing yourself.  I’m slowly learning that you don’t need to be a master poet to appreciate poetry, or even to write it. Publication is not the final validation. The feeling you derive from words in stanzas is much more potent.
And there’s something awfully poetic about all that, isn’t there?

Favorite Poem:

The Rainy Day

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.
My life is cold, and dark, and dreary:
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary. 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Why do you like this poem?

I must be upfront: this is not my favorite poem.  I think it’s cheesy, heavy-handed, and obtuse. But, it was the first poem I ever loved.  Longfellow’s “Rainy Day” spoke to my angst-ridden 13-year-old soul with a passion that I hadn’t yet realized I could get from art.  This was the first poem I ever memorized, the one I recited to myself each day on the walk to and from the mailbox after school. “Thy fate is the common fate of all,” I would mutter to my teenage hormones, “into each life, some rain must fall.”  

And to this day, reciting Longfellow’s poem—no matter how much the imagery and rhyme scheme may make my skin itch—is one of the only things that can lull me after an intense sob session.  My thoughts still cling to the mouldering past, but because of this poem, I am confident that somewhere there is the sun, still shining.

Runners up (because it’s so hard to play favorites)

Mad Girl’s Love Song” by Sylvia Plath, “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman, “The Mermaid” by W.B. Yeats, “Le Pont Mirabeau” by Guillaume Apollinaire, “Poem (1956)” by Frank O’Hara

10---> erik & enoch


Name: Erik Wennermark

Hometown: suburban Washington D.C.

Current City: Hong Kong

Occupation: Teacher/Writer

Age: 37

What does poetry mean to you?

I am a bit of a neophyte when it comes to poetry; I’ve certainly read a fair bit, and I’ve often hung out with poets. I’ve even been in poetry workshops, but I’ve always been a prosaic dude at heart. Maybe that’s why the poems I tend to like are prose-y like Carolyn Forché’s “The Colonel” or just weird exercises like Joe Wenderoth’s Letters to Wendy’s. In my current job though, I find myself reading poetry everyday – much of which is canon (Keats, Wordsworth, etc). This has happened at other times in my life (I went on a long Whitman tear) – and whenever I read poetry everyday I come to appreciate it so much more as it offers challenges and concerns I just don’t get from prose. It’s the rare paragraph, maybe Melville, that I can read ten times and find something new each time, but even what’s ultimately a pretty goofy poem, Keats’s “When I have Fears That I May Cease to Be,” for example, continually rewards careful reading. Some other poems I have enjoyed lately are Philip Larkin’s “The Building” and Anna Akhmatova’s “You Will Hear Thunder.” I’m also a sucker for reading odd fiction about poets (below), most Roberto Bolaño wrote.

Favorite Poet/Poem

Enoch Soames

Why do you like this poet/poem?

His absolute devotion to the craft come hell or high-water – in a most literal sense.

9---> maría & manrique


Name: María
Hometown: Ronda (Málaga, Spain)
Current City: Paris
Occupation: Journalist
Age: 23

What does poetry mean to you?

It’s an art, a nice reflection in the middle of the stress of this day-to-day living.

Favorite Poem

The Coplas on the Death of His Father, the Grand-Master of Santiago” by Jorge Manrique

Why do you like this poet/poem? 

My mother used to recite it to me when I was a child, and I always liked the way it sounded. Later, when I realized the meaning of these powerful sentences, I liked it even more.

8---> lily & hayden


Name: Lily Smith
Hometown: Indianapolis
Current City: Indianapolis
Occupation: Commercial Real Estate Broker
Age: 30

What does poetry mean to you? 

It means an economy of words, piecing together the ordinary in an extraordinary way, and saying/expressing what has been said/expressed forever over the course of humanity in a new and shattering way.

Favorite Poets

Olena Kalytiak Davis, Louise Glück, Anne Marie Rooney, Wallace Stevens, Sarah GalvinW. S. Merwin 

Favorite Poem: 

Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays

Why do you like this poem?

The mundane, brutal, familiarity of love expressed in a brilliant and subtly, yet overwhelmingly, powerful poem.  

7--->svetlana & kunitz


Name: Svetlana Nedeljkov

Home Country: Serbia

Current Country: Canada

Occupation: PhD Candidate

What does poetry mean to you?


Favorite Poet/Poem

Ezra Pound is certainly a writer whose work I enjoy on a daily basis (my dissertation is on Pound), but how could I leave out poets such as H.D. , Sylvia Plath, Denise Levertov, or Susan Howe? I recently re-read Stanley Kunitz’s The Wild Braid and found it even more enjoyable than I had the first time I read it. Kunitz is another one of my favourites.

Why do you like this poet/poem? 

I find the visual imagery of Kunitz’s poetry fascinating. His world comes alive with each poem, transforms into a tangible and brightly coloured haven, and then disappears again with the turn of the page.

6---> maël & queneau


Name: Maël Primet

Hometown: Grenoble

Current City: Paris

Occupation: Entrepreneur

Age: 31

What does poetry mean to you?

Poetry for me has many faces. It is the act of creation, etymologically (“poiein” in Greek “to make”). It is of course the more romantic notion of a beautiful instant (best described by Kundera in his famous quote—“The purpose of the poetry is not to dazzle us with an astonishing thought, but to make one moment of existence unforgettable and worthy of unbearable nostalgia.”). And it is an excuse to allow ourselves to play with words, as if they were physical matter, to push them against each other, make them fit atop each other, put them in motion together.

Favorite Poet/Poem:

I have always loved the work of the OuLiPo, Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, which was started in 1960 and is still meeting today at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. They were a mix of writers and mathematicians, professors and engineers who devised literary games to use as writing constraints. Those constraints become liberating literary tools as they free the writer from the dreadful “empty page” fear. An example could be, as seen in some of these, “write a poem where each word has one letter more than the previous one.” This one is from Jacques Bens: 


An emblematic work of the OuLiPo is “Cent Mille Milliards de Poèmes” by Raymond Queneau in 1961. This is a book composed of 10 sonnets, each 14 verses long, written on 10 successive pages, where each verse is cut so as to make it possible to combine all the poems from all the pages together in any way, resulting in 10 to the 14 poems, that is, a hundred thousand billion poems. This will be my choice as a favorite poem, although it is more a way to make poems.

Why do you like this poet/poem?

I always loved constraints as a means of liberating the writer of his own “inner critic”—you write words because they satisfy the constraints, not because you thought they would go well together in the first place. It allows for a kind of meditative state while writing, since you detach from meaning to give importance to constraints. And this allows serendipitous beauty.

In a sense, it reminds me of the description by Joyce Dyer of “seeing like an animal”—forcing yourself to detach of your “human prejudices” and see the world anew (like would children, an animal, or someone who is forced to satisfy constraints).

5---> kristina & baldwin


Name: Kristina Robinson
Hometown: New Orleans
Current City: New Orleans
Occupation: artist/occasional teacher
Age: 31

What does poetry mean to you? 

Sound and freedom from linearity. The kind of writing that makes me feel the least limited by English. Being an Afroindigenous Black-American from Louisiana, English is both my second and only language. I find the language least frustrating when writing poetry, mostly because I can break free from the penitentiary of grammar. It also accommodates intermediary, non-binary thoughts, ideas, moods and non-conclusions whereas prose in English always feels like it has the weight of a gavel behind it. I like to write it too, but poetry is where I feel most like myself.

Favorite Poet/Poem

I really love “Guilt, Desire, and Love” by James Baldwin

Why do you like this poet/poem?

I like this poem because it’s a direct look at love and why it eludes many/most people.

3---> sophie & rimbaud

Prenom: Sophie

Ville natale: Saint-Etienne

Ville actuelle: Courbevoie

Travail: professeur de français langue étrangère

Âge: plus de 40 ans

*Qu'est-ce que signifie pour vous la poésie?

une certaine liberté d’expression dans l’esprit et la langue (1)

Poète préféré/ poème préféré: “Le dormeur du val” par Arthur Rimbaud 

*Pourquoi aimez-vous ce poète/ ce poème?

Il est simple, beau, on se laisse emporter par la description de la nature et soudain, on se rend compte de la réalité de la scène décrite, mais la poésie sait mettre de la douceur dans un monde si dur. (2)


* The above questions are hopeful French equivalents to those conceived of and asked in English. They are in order: What does poetry mean to you?, Favorite poet/favorite poem?, and Why do you like this poet/poem?

Below are “sketch” translations of Sophie’s responses. 

(1) a certain freedom of expression in spirit and language

(2) It is simple, beautiful, one is carried away by the description of nature and suddenly, one becomes aware of the reality of the scene described, but poetry knows to put sweetness in a world so hard. 

You can read an English translation of Rimbaud’s poem, “The Sleeper in the Valley,” here

2---> phyllis & rich & creeley

Name: Phyllis Cohen

Hometown: Chicago

Current City: Paris

Occupation: Owner of Berkeley Books of Paris

Age: 44

What does poetry mean to you?

I think poetry is vital, and one of the most beautiful forms of communication we have.  If I want to learn about other countries, other eras, even other states of mind, I go right to the poetry of the place. If a poem works, it’s a direct address from one human heart to another. I find this to be a small, daily miracle.

The best of what’s out there is not at all limited by space or time, only the lack of translations. This is why I admire literary translators and think their work is so important.

Too, I think poetry is a better teacher of history than any other method known to us. This is an idea I picked up in college as a philosophy nerd. In Aristotle’s Poetics, you’ll find this:

“Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.” - Aristotle

Favorite Poet/Poem:

My favorite poet is Adrienne Rich, and my favorite poem is “A Form of Women” by Robert Creeley. (When I have the difference figured out, I’ll tell you.)

Why do you like this poet/poem?

There is an emotional intensity to this poem that gets me every time. I first read it as a youth in New York. The beauty of its romanticism, and the direct address from another human heart stopped me in my tracks. I decided to memorize it so as to have it with me always.

With age, the poem means even more to me. I understand it on levels other than the immediate poetic declaration and plea of the envoi. With the great poems, as with the best works of fiction, I think there is a sense in which we grow into them. They become part of us and help us learn what it is to live.

1---> chelsie & whitman

Name: Chelsie

Hometown: St. Louis, MO

Current City: Paris

Occupation: PhD candidate

Age: 31

What does poetry mean to you?

Poetry is the distilled essence of meaning-making, pulled together through repetitions of sound and rhythm that surpass referential language.

Favorite poet/poem

Walt Whitman & “Song of the Open Road

Why do you like this poet/poem?:

For its celebration of wanderlust and exploration, its praise of struggle, and its reminder to celebrate our non-material wealth.