Banquet for the Muse
Deep France feeds me and my work! I write in Auvillar each spring; for part of the time I act as a poetry workshop leader for the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts at their French site. The workshop is called “O Taste & See: Writing the Senses in Deep France,” as the senses are reawakened in the warmth of the sun. And this part of the country, near the Garonne, is referred to as “Deep France” because there are so few tourists. One often hears the walking sticks of the pilgrims, are who travel the path of St. Jacques of Compostelle to the Pyrenées in Spain. Painters love the light of this area. And there are poetry pilgrims, like me.
The Garonne is a muse. The river sings—with the expected noises of frogs and wading birds, with the unexpected voices of spirits. I’ve met my mother and father, long deceased, in dreams and poems by the Garonne. And my poetry workshop participants have had similar experiences. Once, a soothsayer who lived by the Garonne told me that young women should bundle up their sorrows and toss them into the river. I knew a woman who did that, and it worked!
Roses and peonies are everywhere, and the hydrangeas are the size of volleyballs. The people are friendly and adorable. I’ve made lasting friendships, with elderly people and with chefs, with younger poets and local craftspeople, with the grandchildren of villagers whose relatives hid Jews during the war. I’ve taken many oral histories, have incorporated the stories into poems.
This spring my poetry workshop participants and I were invited to give a reading in an 8th century church that has been restored on the Garonne River. We made posters in English and in French for the villagers.
I go back each spring for the poetry and the people, but my motives are impure. The wine is cheap and you can’t get a bad bottle. The food is fresh, with no preservatives, and it’s better than you can imagine. I’m addicted to the open markets, the ancient streets at dusk. Being in the French language feels like swimming. It’s a workout at first, then it comes more easily.
The new book will be called The Love that Moves Me, and my publisher is Black Widow Press. The title poem came to me in my bedroom in Auvillar, as I was reading Dante’s Inferno. Here’s one of the poems from the opening section of the manuscript, first published by Blue Fifth Review online:
I Want You Here
So badly my fingertips ache
roses droop against the thorns
the green light of the Garonne
stuns my eyes
I talk to dogs to my chair
listen at the neighbor’s door
The old stones of the village are too smooth
The stubble of your chin would do
I want you here so badly
I can taste your salt
I’ll find a place or two for your mouth
listen hard to your tongue
we’ll coo like mad doves
become ballads legends
climb to the centre ville
devour the first May cherries
at home in each other
beneath the blue sheet
The rest of the poems in the manuscript were composed at home in Tennessee, at the Mary Anderson Center in Mount St. Francis, Indiana, and at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Sweet Briar. Love stories and humor are what hold them together!
Causes Marilyn Kallet Supports
Southern Poverty Law Center, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, ACLU, Amnesty International, Save Darfur.