By Jean-Yves Solinga
($19.95, Paperback (7″ X 10″), 120 Pages)
Here again, I sit before my computer to write a foreword for another outstanding book of poems from Jean-Yves. This is the tenth book of lyrical poetry that Little Red Tree Publishing has published in as many years. In this book, Jean-Yves has taken the opportunity to tentatively explore the subject of the genesis of his own muse. The title, Paris: Genesis of a Muse, is therefore both a literal and a provocative ghost, in so many ways. So we are left searching for a response to the intriguing question: Who or What is this muse, or more specifically how Paris became the genesis…?
Regrettably, you will find no direct or complete answer to the “genesis” or the “muse,” because a description sufficient to encapsulate the infinite possibilities is by its very nature ineffable. Interestingly Jean-Yves was not born in Paris—or France—in fact, has never lived for any extended period in the City. He was actually born in Algeria and moved to Morocco as a young boy where he spent an idyllic childhood and at 14 was abruptly sent to America by his family. Following an honorable discharge from the US Army, he became a teacher. He gained a Masters and PhD along the way and spent his entire career teaching French Culture and Literature in Connecticut schools and colleges.
Alternatively, close examination of the front cover photograph, a typical cityscape of Paris, renders minimal clues except for the hardly discernible glimpse of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, over the rooftops, in the distance. However, this is important. Now here the reader would be forgiven for not knowing that this photo was taken from the seventh floor of a nameless hotel. In fact, a similar view that Paul, the character Marlon Brando played in Last Tango in Paris, gazed from. Therefore you might surmise that it is the character’s thoughts or feelings that are important or the sight of the majestic building and all that it represents to Parisians or in fact to the French people, even Jean-Yves himself? The Basilica is built on the highest point in Paris so it can be seen from virtually any vantage point in Paris. Is it the fact that the Catholic Basilica was commissioned aside from the obvious “glory of God,” as penance for the defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870), and the excesses of the socialist Paris Commune debacle of (1871)? Maybe….
Having been born outside of France with a soul that is as one with the desert (Maghreb) of North-West Africa, Jean-Yves is also magnetically drawn to the epicentre of French culture and the density of its history. To be inextricably linked but essentially an observer might be the genesis, whether this is the thought or the physical touch of grains of sand passing through young fingers, or the thought of the profound secular world of Moulin Rouge at the bottom of the Montmartre hill so close to the Catholic Basilica, or indeed the flawed but still compelling pastiche of Parisian life and French Morocco, or the existentialist vision of Sartre’s concept of the absurd, where exquisite beauty exists in the same space and time as unspeakable disaster… And, one cannot wander too far from the influence of Camus, which invades the very essence of Jean-Yves.
Having said all that you might expect the book to contain a collection of poems about Paris. Regrettably, you will find few directly about Paris, but all paths to find the “muse” inexorably lead back to Paris, or the thought of Paris throughout his books.
To reiterate, from many of the forewords I have written for the 10 books, Jean-Yves is a prolific writer… I continue to be in awe of his ability.
North Platte, NE, 2019
Paris: Genesis of a Muse
Dedicated to those who have known the congruences of the heart, places, and emotional disponibility that manifest themselves, during privileged moments.
“We’ll always have Paris,”
Kept playing in his mind. In this bed. In a hotel’s seventh floor.
The setting, so authentic that a World War II Nazi occupation film
had required only a few “modern” pieces to be removed.
From the tortuous rue Saint Lazare, that righteously crosses rue des Martyrs,
you walked directly into authentic history:
going through a four-inch wooden door
that had probably seen the blood smears of revolutions
and glorious tears of heartbreaks.
But instead, his mind jumped to the artifice of Hollywood:
“We’ll always have Paris.”
The craving for his own need to recreate this city:
miraculously, turning the celluloid world of Casablanca,
into the seminal soup of artificial reality.
“We’ll always have Paris,”
was more akin to an act of faith:
a credo to be accepted in one’s heart of heart.
These words… from a mundane movie script, meant to him,
that only disciples of the magic of memories
could really sit at the table.
Casablanca, the movie, had nothing in common with realism.
The people, the bar, the street scenes.
He knew that. He had lived there.
The clothing looked more like a New York
interpretation of the Moroccan world.
A commedia dell’arte:
where actors served a faithful representation of their character’s identity:
The Nazis: nauseously brutal.
The black-marketers: perfectly neutral.
The flawed protagonist: refusing to do the wrong thing.
And the heroine’s honor: like a priceless Limoges porcelain.
“And yet… it worked!” he murmured, upon reflecting on the movie.
Casablanca had captured the ingredients of memories.
For, in spite of all the easy imitations of Bogart’s lines
And the low elevation of production,
The couple’s quiet, delusional passion of return,
sounds so true after all these years.
“Mankind has been saddled with the capacity
to recall the past,” he would complain.
Having already attempted a visceral voyage
back to the solar warmth of his Promise Land.
To Sidi Moussa:
That magical beach on the tip of Africa;
And at the center of his soul.
Sidi Moussa… like Paris… still intact in their artistic cocoon.
Untouched and unspoiled by the vagaries of time.
in the dryness of spotless blue skies:
in the iodized spray of the green Atlantic.
Sidi Moussa, prophet… his patron-saint of the illuminated;
of the deluded urban and desert traveler.
The saintly figure who now, guides lovers to the Pont Neuf:
Not far from the kisses, sighs… and oaths
of nihilists and atheists.
lying passively in this humble room, overlooking Paris.
Feeling embarrassedly envious of the ease provided, by their
Religious zeal, to these figures of history and religious texts:
“Moses: so sure, of himself. So sure, of a hands-on god.
Such unquestioned exaltation!”:
He thought to himself!
She was at the window when he awoke.
A translucent overlay,
of her porcelain-white nudity under a nightgown.
Her curves acting like a découpage tracing
over the foggy, grayish-whiteness of le Sacré Coeur.
She whispered, as though to a presence on the balcony:
“C’est beau… hein?
Oui… toujours. Même sous la pluie.
Surtout sous la pluie.” He added:
As if echoing Verlaine,
whose stanzas on Paris they would recite to each other.
All the while, the virginal shades of the Basilica gave a shawl of modesty
to the carnal world on the Place Blanche and Moulin Rouge, at its feet.
In Paris, the emanations of human passions
—their attractions and their repulsions—
Making you acquire the natural feel of a second skin.
They incrust themselves
into the very substance of walls and cobblestones of the city.
He remembered, trying in his youth, to pry out, to capture
—in the after-lunch walk to school—
all… the vastness of the Maghrebian nothingness.
How could the bleds** be so empty and yet alive?
How could these dead Roman cities still contain urban noise?
Why did the stones of the highways of the Roman empire,
insist on retaining the grooves of the cartwheels?
Remembering the words of André Gide that:
“Sight was the most frustrating of the senses.”
He confronted the oppressive silence
and ambivalent grainy horizon of the Sahel.
And here he is now… in the Parisian mist:
Understanding the nature of her tears:
for having been his muse all these years…
she knew… what he felt as he looked at her.
on this balcony and this backdrop,
that multitude of tableaux were lining up.
of his pilgrimages to stand in silent reverence in museums.
he could hear his own words:
—an inner voice for such moments of happiness—
“That one should die, when one is so happy.”
Having no more to live for.
“Where art decodes reality”:
He once said, in front of a Jacques-Louis David.
A confirmed non-believer,
he felt himself watched by secular, mundane, jealous gods.
Gods, somehow envious of the human happiness
That can somehow survive in pockets of mankind.
A concept… a scene, set in Paris by Henry Miller,
would, then invade him, when in full earthy euphoria.
Miller’s narrator is in bed with two women,
expecting, at any moment, the door to be swung wide-open
by an enraged, jealous, random passer-by from the street below!
Paris… that Paris!
A place that makes you a voyeur
of your own voyeurism.
A random cosmic intersection
containing all earthy nourishments that one would ever need.
Paris… not a place; but a state of mind.
A location, on the third rock from the sun,
that would eventually grow life equipped with self-reflection.
“And one of them would be… me!”
He murmured, looking at her at the window.
Paris had acquired the power to transcend time and space:
Requiring personal disponibility and a synesthesia of the senses.
It would happen between the viewer
and the painted vocabulary on the museum walls.
A place that —like for Dorothy toward Kansas—
Would have to wish upon… three times:
“We’ll always have Paris”
… To make it so.
The balcony. The view of Montmartre.
He was becoming a doppelgänger of the Marlo Brando character:
he was reliving the last scene of “Last Tango in Paris.”
He had brought her to this city in spite of and because of… all conventions:
Like some perverted classroom practicum, for both of them.
Everything existed at once:
Dichotomy. Overstimulation of the senses. Emptiness of the soul.
Her unfathomable youth, reminding him of another one.
One of the sexually dissipated youth found in Rolla:
with its duality of debauchery and New Testament virginity.
The nihilism in passages he had discussed in his courses:
Meursault and Brando’s character, practically dead soul at the start:
“I… so much wanted to enter their world… their lives:
Slap their faces and tell them:
Wake up! Down by the Opéra… on the bridges,
you can still hear the whispers of past lovers… by lovers repeated.
The contrast of the organic remnants of hedonism all around.
And then… this camera close-up.
There is a childlike sadness, in Paul’s glance,
as he looks upon toward what will continue to exist
—after his imminent death—
on top of Montmartre.
And all… he wanted to do now,
was to jump out of bed and cover her with a blanket,
in order to shield her body
from divine lust!