Sunday, April 29, 2007

a letter from Henri IV

dropped by the MUSEE DES LETTRES ET MANUSCRITS yesterday in the quirky little rue de Nesle. i went to see an exhibit organized around the journal of Calamity Jane--only to discover that the journal itself has a dubious provenance and may or may not have been written by the Wild West icon. However, the museum's permanent collection more than made up for the quirky Calamity exhibition...i spent time gazing at letters by Henry IV (my favourite of the French kings--after all, he was responsible for Place des Vosges), a military memo from Cardinal Mazarin, and a polite note from Anne of Austria. i admired the very nice handwriting of Gustave Eiffel and the careful yet messy calculations of Marie Curie, and i wondering how anyone managed to read the skinny flat letters written by Charles de Gaulle. Graphologists would have a field day with him! i have no idea what it means that Isaac Newton had very small slanted handwriting, or that Albert Einstein's scientific notes are much neater than his hair...but it was quite amazing to see the original letters on display.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

rockin' the Horse

i'm impressed with The White Stripes' upcoming tour plans...they're going to include three dates in Northern Canada, one in each territory, including a stop June 25th in Whitehorse. on the band's website, Jack White writes: "Having never done a full tour of Canada, Meg & I thought it was high time to go whole hog. We want to take this tour to the far reaches of the Canadian landscape. From the ocean to the permafrost."
i saw them in Paris a couple of years ago, when they were promoting Elephant--great live show. too bad they can't make it to Dawson City...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Art process at Flateurville

Flateurville...a real but imaginary installation you can visit every Thursday night, created by artist/story-teller Laurent Godard. I was invited by the organizers of the Art Bus--a monthly tour through the most interesting contemporary art in Paris (next one is May 26th, find out about it here). Godard uses donated temporary spaces for Flateurville (he's starting to work on one in New York, apparently on Mott Street). in Paris, the space is an old print shop on a crooked lost street near Saint-Denis, transformed into story-teller's rabbit warren of paintings, furniture, and objets trouves, creatively inhabited by an entire village. This virtual village is Flateurville (the walls are filled with portraits of its citizens), invented by Godard. It's a kind of Micronation--you can have an ID card made for you in Flateurville, if you choose to believe in the place, and last night's crowd seemed willing...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cinderella reads Geist

Paris is experimenting with later-running metros...long overdue, in my opinion. Because there's nothing worse than glancing at your cellphone at a little after midnight & having to calculate how much time you've got left...before you either turn into a pumpkin or run for the last metro.
however, once you've caught that last metro, it's crucial to have good reading material (otherwise you'll get caught in conversation with the crazy drunk guy to your me on this). one of my favourite metro reads is GEIST, the Vancouver-based quarterly mag edited by the incomparable Stephen Osborne. if you're in Vancouver, drop by their upcoming issue-64 bash May 5th. meanwhile i'll be on the metro savouring Geist's controversial issue #63...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

gin & jazz

the FESTIVAL JAZZ A SAINT-GERMAIN-DES-PRES starts next week...most appropriately, i passed this pianist busking last night on my way to a little festival preview at Chez Castel (the exclusive sleazy club in St-Germain's rue Princesse--get the inside scoop on that from Petite Brigitte!)
fortunately the usual Castel crowd wasn't in residence: the labyrinthian basement was packed with musicians & journalists elbowing their way to the open bar where, to our ladylike disappointment, there was no champagne, only hard liquor. to go with the gin & tonics, waiters sidled around with plates of macaron cookies. i have no idea how this all connects to jazz, but we devoured the cookies while waiting for festival officials to finish their speeches...then New Zealander Aron Ottignon played piano. he's featured at the festival's closing night, May 17th, at the "nuit electro-jazz".

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

not all baguettes

are created equal. i tried a new bakery today, because its owner just won the covetted "best baguette" award for 2007. now, admittedly, the winning baguette comes from his original store on rue des Martyrs, an excellent bakery but too far for me to walk in the mornings. but this second branch is mere blocks away from chez i thought why not?
alas, the bread was a sorry disappointment...too dry & over-baked. my dog is currently profitting from the remains. and i'm going back to my local favourite bakery tomorrow. i may even apologize for having strayed.

Monday, April 23, 2007

un pot de depart pour Chirac

on Saturday night, my street association hosted "a good-bye drink for Chirac"...the outgoing President didn't show up, but my neighbours dressed for the occasion, including some Marie Antoinette hairdos (royalist coiffure being de-rigueur for Royal supporters!) ...with the help of a song book, we managed to keep track of the endless lyrics of French chansons, while tiny pirates staged coups at the soda table.

last night, the mood in the villa garden was more serious as neighbors gathered to watch the results on a little television set up outside on an iron table. everyone was relieved that Le Pen's support has dropped since the last election and he won't be in the second round.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


gorgeous pre-election day in Paris...and as if to reinforce the surreal quality of this weekend, all over town old election posters from previous campaigns are appearing, plastered where you'd expect yet another tired Sarko/Sego poster competition. on a corner near me is a refreshingly plain Mitterrand poster, circa 1981. a retired journalist from L'Humanité, Philippe Meunier, is apparently one of the people responsible for printing up the old posters & putting them up around town...he claims no overt political message, since he's including posters from across the political spectrum (avoiding the really ugly FN characters, fortunately!) this Chirac poster circa '86 is across the street from the Bouffes du Nord.

Friday, April 20, 2007


one of the exhibitions at the Palais de Tokyo (unfortunately on the far side of the room filled with mould scuptures) is the amazing Micronations room, curated by Peter Collins--the show is here until May 6th. it introduces the fantastical but real world of miniature invented countries...for all of us who have thought of seceding from the country we're in.
two of my favourites are Adjnabistan, invented by American Michael Ashkin when he was travelling in the Middle East (see his explanation & installation photos here) and The Conch Republic (surrounded by the Florida Keys) which is celebrating its 25th anniversary today.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

bunny poems

coffee around the corner from Bastille, gearing up for an evening at the Palais de Tokyo, the contemporary art museum that prides itself on cool weird events. tonight it's BoXoN/NoXoD --somewhere between performance art and what the blurb calls "linguistic exercise": "traductions translexiques dystructrices simultanées, poèmes visuels et bunny-girls à la bourre traversant le Palais..."
the blurb alone is a performance piece, don't you think?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


had dinner last night with an old friend in Paris, visionary artist L Caruana, who is preparing to launch his new book The Hidden Passion. Caruana has assembled all kinds of citations from gnostic writings to create the novel--we spent the evening paging through this advance copy. with the themes of the book, this wine, bread & candles photo taken in his Bastille studio couldn't be more appropriate...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

baroque basements

spent last night at a poetry reading in a 17th century basement in the Marais--lots of atmosphere, not so much oxygen. listened to Jennifer K Dick and Ariana Reines read some excellent new poems. Ariana is now based in Brooklyn, though she spent a while in Paris; her first book won the Fence Alberta Prize--meant to ask her why it is called the Alberta Prize, when it is based in New York, awarded by Fence books, & as far as i can tell has no connection to the province at all...but the lack of air must have gotten to me because i forgot.

Monday, April 16, 2007

back at the desk

more flowers...figured i should photograph my Paris desk with Earl Grey tea BEFORE everything is covered in a heavy layer of papers and books so that only the tops of the flowers are visible...
what you can't see is that i'm listening to the TF1 jazz radio station because i can't stand to hear any more analysis of the upcoming French election. my street is sensibly holding a pre-election party the night before the after the first round of voting we can all stay home and brood.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


with the warm weather in Paris, the wisteria has come out...wonderful scent (these are outside the living room window). perfect day for brunch with french writer virginie poitrasson...visit some of her poems here

Saturday, April 14, 2007

under the bridge

well i've gotten the fake blood off my dress (my purse may never be quite the same) and i'm waiting to see if my dare to Petite Brigitte comes through: i promised to sing kareoke at the next Ullmann Cabrock if (and only if) she buys herself an orange rompersuit. last night for Friday the 13th, the cabaret-rock was at the new club Pont Alexandre III--a place which is getting so much press, even the Air Canada flight magazine mentions it. the location is pretty darn gorgeous, tucked under the base of a 1900 world exhibition bridge that's loaded with gilded statues...just a blurry cocktail's shake from the Eiffel Tower.

Friday, April 13, 2007

"artists are...

the shock troops of gentrification" read a graffiti slogan that i used to walk past every day. thought of it last night when i was up in my old 'hood of Crimee & the Canal St-Martin (up in the 19th arrondissement...where Parisian friends used to say "ooooh you live up there, i don't want to visit"). and now? tapas bars on lovely boats moored by the canal, fashionable dog-walkers, and a whole new hotel complex. though i loved the old down-at-heel secret canal when i lived there, i had no complaints yesterday, drinking wine on a converted workboat & catching up with my glamorous film friend H while the sun set behind us...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Alberta Book Awards

just found out that A Bad Year for Journalists has been nominated for an Alberta Award...kudos to my great publisher, Rose Scollard at Frontenac House (especially since one of my co-nominees is another of her poets, Nancy Jo Cullen, for her book Pearl). we had a great reading together in Toronto last April.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


in case the photos don't make it obvious: i'm back in France! though i haven't managed to completely unpack, i've spent lots of time on sunny bar terrasses, had oysters & champagne in a Burgundian orchard, admired the sparkling Eiffel Tower (because somehow, it never gets boring) and dropped by Heather Stimmler-Hall's pre-launch for her upcoming 'Naughty Paris' book. (thanks V for letting me photograph your very parisienne shoes at La Chaise au Plafond!)