“I’ll…look beauty in the eyes and feed my soul”

…I lose my friends and go back up to the mass
it’s All-Saints day all the benches are full
but a man sees me and makes room, so i decide to sit.
Everybody’s listening to the priest’s psalms,
with their palms to the sky,
a young woman clasps her hands hard to feel the qualms
of faith
but her phone rings and she reaches in panic in her Longchamp bag
to turn it off…

Am I the only one who understands?
Dim lights cast shadows on the faces of the chic twenty-somethings gathered around a young artist with dark glasses.  Dijon’s “bobo’s” I have heard them labeled — my generation’s bourgeois bohemians, with their designer brands and purposefully messy coifs.  Nonchalantly they sip their beers and stare tenaciously at the artist, whose lips move so quickly that even I have trouble making out some of the words, though they are the sons of my mother-tongue.

It’s not his accent, since it is scarcely noticeable.  This francais has spent a good amount of time in America, the obvious muse for much of his poetry.  But he reads at a surprising pace, with musical accompaniment that at times overwhelms the power of his voice so that all I can make out are the frenetic chords and the movement of his lips.

Still, what I can hear above the sound are words about the bustle of New York, his struggle with a lack of faith (“As they all follow and recite /the rosary in my head /is tangled and intertwined”) and his nurtured empathy for the world-views of those with “English-speaking eyes.”

(image from H*P on Facebook)

It is ten o’ clock on Friday night and Hotel Particulier is tightly packed with the French followers of Anthony Moriarty, the skinny, tatooed artist who reads his poetry in English with a slight southern accent.  (“I lived in South Carolina for two years,” he tells me after the show.)  As I look around at the faces in the room, a sort of smug feeling descends upon me. I can make out the words they struggle to hear. I can understand the similes and metaphors, I can hear the alliteration. And I can confirm or deny his perspective of America. I’ve been there. I was born there.  Am I the only one who understands?

“It’s not about that,” Anthony says when I swim through the crowd to congratulate him, in French and English, later that night.  “It’s not about understanding all the words; it’s about understanding the universal meaning, which is facilitated by the music,” he clarifies. “It’s poesie progressive.”

“Yes, but I enjoyed the words,” I say.

“Thank you, but it’s less about the words and more about the sounds.”

Ah.

I never have completely understood the progressives, the bourgeois bohemes among my peers. As I watch the crowd begin to disperse and Anthony shuffles away to sell CDs of his poesie progressive, I laugh a little to myself.  The smug feeling has lifted with the revelation that — yet again — what I thought I saw, wasn’t. I understood the words, but had I understood the music? Had the meaning that the French bobos — waiting in line to buy the CD — had found been lost on me?

Am I the only one who hasn’t understood so much after all?

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2 Comments

Filed under Adventure, Cool Characters, Dijon, Inspiration, Laugh it off, Unconventional Wisdom

2 responses to ““I’ll…look beauty in the eyes and feed my soul”

  1. No.

    You heard the music and, as someone who naturally analyzes what is written, you focused more on the actual poetry rather than the poésie progressive (whatever that is…).

    By the way, thanks for clarifying what a bobo was. I remember hearing the term a few weeks ago from my landlord, but I just had the impression that the people concerned were a bunch of rich kids. A bit different from the babacool crowd. 😛
    I’m not sure if the artist composed his music with French audiences in mind. If so, then he knew that no matter what he wrote in English might end up lost in translation to his francophone listeners, so of course he had to concentrate more on the actual music.

  2. J. Forsberg Meyer

    But then why those particular words? If they don’t matter so much? This is mystifying. I’m with you, Emily. In my business (magazines), both the words and images matter, the words more, perhaps, but I’d never discount the images. And it’s not as if his words were obscure or space-fillers–! Oh, well. Different cultures, different universes, I suppose. Plus, as you say, the bohemian artiste thing, and whatnot. Made for a terrific post, though, so it’s all good.

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