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.”

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.

a salute to april

Here is a verse of April from American poet e.e. cummings. It’s excerpted from a larger text, Paris, published in “édition bilingue” by Seghers in 2014 and translated from the English by Jacques Demarcq.


Paris;this April sunset completely utters;
utters serenely silently a cathedral

before whose upward lean magnificent face
the streets turn young with rain,

spiral acres of bloated rose
coiled within cobalt miles of sky
yield to and heed
the mauve

                         of twilight (who slenderly descends,
daintinly carrying in her eyes the dangerous first stars)
people move love hurry in a gently

arriving gloom and
see! (the new moon
fills abruptly with sudden silver
these torn pockets of lame and begging colour) while
there and here the lithe indolent prostitute
Night, argues

with certain houses


Paris;ce couchant d’avril totalement s’exprime;
s’exprime sereine et silencieuse une cathédrale

devant le magnifique visage décharné de qui
des rues sous la pluie rajeunissent,

des hectares de volutes bouffies de rose
lovées dans ce cobalt kilomètres de ciel
s’inclinent attentionnés devant
le mauve
                         de crépuscule (qui descend tout en sveltesse,
portant coquette aux yeux les dangereuses premières étoiles)
les gens vont aiment courent sous gentiment

arrivant le pénombre et
vois ! (la nouvelle lune
emplit tout à coup de soudain argent
ces poches trouées d’une mendiante couleur boiteuse) tandis
qu’ici et là ondule indolente la prostituée
Nuit, elle tente de convaincre

certaines maisons