Spring in Paris

Narcissus in the Cité Internationale des Arts Garden, Paris. Painting by Martin Kent

Spring in Paris began early in 2011.  It was ‘un printemps précoce’, Bethsheba, the French teacher at the Conversation Class at the Cité Internationale des Arts, informed us.

That was not a phrase I’d learned in my long-ago years of studying French at school and university—or even during the Alliance française class I’d attended back in Newcastle in the lead-up to this trip to Paris—but like all French, it had a mesmerising sound to me. It suggested so well the fragility of the first crab apple petals I’d seen on a sparse tree against a white wall in a street near our studio.

In a small blue ceramic trough on our windowsill, bright yellow miniature narcissus (planted by a previous resident) were already blooming, too. 

When Martin and I arrived at the beginning of February, it was freezing! The sun rose so late that some mornings the teenagers arriving at the nearby Lycée at 8.30 huddled under glowing streetlights as they waited for school to begin.

By the end of February, though, here were the first spring flowers. It would get cold again, of course, but at least Paris was trying to bring us some hope of lighter days to come.

The first spring flowering tree, Paris, Feb 2011. Jean Kent

We were about to live at the Cité Internationale des Arts for six months. I was at the ‘Conversation Class’ because we both needed a ‘Carte de Séjour’ from the Office of French Immigration for our stay. I had been warned that they’d probably speak no English there, and the classes with Bethsheba were helping me to prepare for this brush with French bureaucracy.

For the next half year, I would spend my mornings working on revision of a poetry collection based on a previous residency, as well as gathering material for future poems. Martin would go out with his camera, collecting images of Paris, which he’d show me in a slideshow on his laptop each night.

Later, back at home in Lake Macquarie, with the help of the memory triggers of those photos, he would begin paintings of the Paris he’d discovered. I would have a small manuscript of new Paris poems in progress—and the idea of combining the poems and the paintings for a book would begin.

Here in Paris, in 2011, did we have any notion this might happen? No. It has taken time, but out of the memory store of all those photos and all my journal jottings and poetry notebooks, Paris Light: A Personal Plan de Paris has evolved.

Here are two sample pages from the book:

Painting by Martin Kent, ‘Forest Boy’ plus poem by Jean Kent, ‘Rue de l’Ave-Maria’.

Paris Light: A Personal Plan de Paris has just been published by Pitt Street Poetry.

It is available through good bookshops, or from the PSP website: https://pittstreetpoetry.com/

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