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.