Tuesday, 28 June 2016

PARIS & EDIS AFTERS - report and pics

'Between my finite eyes -' Emily D.

I was at the Emily Dickinson International Society (EDIS) Conference this past weekend in Paris, which was, of course, trés jolie: Emily and Paris, two of my favourite things all wrapped up together. We enjoyed the 'blue and gold' of Emily D's June - the sun shone often - though there was more than the odd 'curious Cloud' too.

Butte aux Cailles graffiti & Juno
Fondation des États Unis
The conference took place at the Cité Universitaire, in the 14th arrondissement, in a trio of beautiful old buildings, full of oak and marble and delicate murals. Our hotel (a bit cruddy, tbh) was a 20 minute walk from the uni, through residential streets and Parc Montsouris. The park held one of two Clark Lunberry art installations, inspired by Emily D.

Clark Lunberry ED text on the pond at Parc Montsouris

It's always lovely to reconnect with fellow Emily fans and I even managed to overcome shyness and talk to some ;) The theme of this year's conference was 'Experimental Dickinson' (apt) and I heard papers on Emily's letters (especially those to her beloved SIL, Susan, as well as to her friend, and posthumous editor, Thomas Wentworth Higginson).

Dr Emily Seelbinder with Juno, both sporting Emily D T-shirts

Also, some great papers on teaching Dickinson, including a fascinating one from North Carolina-based scholar Emily Seelbinder, who challenges her students to create an objet d'art using Dickinson's poetry as a jump-off. (My kind of class). The students have produced fantastic work, everything from art books, to fortune cookies containing Dickinson aphorisms, to a boardgame: 'Dickinson Dash to the Death', and a T-shirt connecting Kanye to Emily :)

Georgiana Strickland's paper was about the discography she is compiling of interpretations/versions of Emily's poetry that have been set to music. We were treated to various extracts from different composers, including Aaron Copeland and, my favourite, Craig Hella Johnson.

Natasha et Linda

That paper set us up nicely for Saturday evening's concert 'The Poet and the Muse: Dickinson in Song', with soprano Linda Mabbs and pianist Natasha Roqué Alsina. It was fascinating to hear, for example, four different composers' versions of 'Will there really be a "Morning"?', performed one after the other. Linda Mabbs is a beautiful singer and her interpretations were moving and funny, and her explanations of the arrangements were really informative.

ED and Celebrity panel: Paul, Páraic & Elizabeth

I went to a panel on ED's dealings with literary fame - her own and others'. It was great to hear papers by Elizabeth Petrino, Páraic Finnerty and Paul Crumbley that looked at different aspects of 19th C literary celebrity and where ED saw herself within it all. And how she may have had a firm eye on posthumous celebrity. Fascinating stuff. (Páraic Finnerty has just reviewed my novel about ED, Miss Emily, in Breac - a wonderful review, I am honoured.)

Lunberry 'Written on Air' installation - Fondation des États Unis, Cité Universitaire

There was a lot of overlap as ever with the content and themes that people chose to present on. Emily D's penchant for concealment and revelation came up a lot, the known/unknown nature of her life and work.

Me and Ju, on our way to the concert and banquet
Banquet bread and wine :)
Lovely people: EDIS President Martha Nell Smith with conference organiser Antoine Cazé

We had the conference banquet on Saturday night in the Fondation Deutsch de la Meurthe in the gorgeous, balconied, wood-lined Grand Salon. Despite making it known we were vegetarians in advance, there was little for us to eat. Even the ratatouille contained fish (why? why?). So we ate bread and drank wine and, sure, what else would you need?! Juno was delighted to meet other EDIS members' children and had a ball with them, outside the fondation building, running about and chatting. (I must add, though, that the lunches at the conference were outstanding - the choccie tart! The cheesy puffs! The salads! All very delicious.)

View from the Tour Eiffel

We had four full days and two half days in Paris and, apart from the conference, we managed to squeeze in a lot: shopping, sightseeing, scoffing, walking, art etc. The area we stayed in, the Butte aux Cailles, is gorgeous. I had stayed there before and loved its olde worlde charm. It's full of sweet bars and restaurants and there is the most incredible graffiti/wall art everywhere.

Skaters outside Notre Dame - they were brilliant
Finbar at Notre Dame
The Seine
Deyrolle window display
We visited the famous Deyrolle in St Germain to see the taxidermy. No photos allowed inside, but I took one of the window display. You can buy a stuffed bison, lion, piglet or duckling, depending on your budget. Though a duckling costs about €200... I made do with a vintage map/poster of vegetables annotated in French.

Forlorn and covetable dolly at the marché in Vanves
We went to the marché aux puces at the Porte de Vanves. We wandered for ages, buying nothing, only to have a flurry at the end. I bought a blue enamel brooch by Bretaudeau Paris; a silver tone pendant with opalite and turquoise stones by Miracle (both for €20), and a turqouise, floral Japanese pot for a tenner. Juno bought yet more Playmobil (and was ripped off) but I am nonsense at haggling myself, so I said nothing.

'Standing Girl Nude, Turned to the Left with Arms Crossed' - Paula MB

We also went to the top of the Eiffel Tower - such joy to see Juno's delighted face. And we stumbled on the fact that there was a temporary exhibit of Paula Modersohn Becker's paintings at the Palais de Tokyo. I wrote an (unpublished) novel about Paula years ago, so it was great to re-connect with her and see some work that I have never seen because it is privately owned. That was a real bonus.

Grass jelly drink, anyone?
What else? Oh yes, we went to Chinatown for a look around but it was pretty grey and grim, apart from the great Asian supermarkets, like Tang Frères.

And we watched the Ireland vs France match in a bistro in St Michel, having failed to get into two jam-packed Irish pubs. That was fun until our team were hammered. We consoled ourselves in Notre Dame Cathedral: mass in progress, hymns being sung, candles twinkling. Heaven felt near, as Emily D. might say.

Falafel, Le Grenier style
More consolation, then, in our favourite Parisian veggie restaurant, Le Grenier de Notre Dame. Drool. Followed by dark choc from the gelateria next door. Slurp. Le Grenier has poshed up a bit, mind you, since we were last there. As has Shakespeare and Co., which feels a bit Disneyish now, I hate to say, though I bought an Emily D. book I don't have - JCO's Essential Dickinson. (Husb also brought Juno to Disneyland Paris; thankfully I escaped that torture. I did my bit years ago with my two older kids. Once was quite enough.)

George Sand's house - tea garden roses
'Nobody knows this little Rose -
It might a pilgrim be...' ED
George Sand's house
We also went to George Sand's house, Musée de la Vie Romantique. Well, it was Ary Scheffer's house but George lived there with him. They have an incredible collection of her jewellery and some fine portraits by Ary. And there's a tea garden where I had the best chocolate mousse of my life.

I wanted one of these so badly. Too pricey, though :(
Métro station ads are the best
So, it was a marvellous trip, all thanks to the Arts Council for funding me. It's great to be home too, though I'll have to get used to no more pain au chocolat for brekkie and no more nightly booze.

And at some point I guess I will stop feeling exhausted out of my brains and start some proper work. I have rewrites on novel #4 to tackle and class prep for Saturday's IWC class. For now, I will just let myself feel I still have one foot in Paris. With Emily and all those who love her.

The EDIS conference poster
'I've seen a Dying Eye
Run round and round a Room —' ED


Burl said...

Thanks so much for sharing your time in Paris, Nuala. You made me feel as if I were there!

Nuala Ní Chonchúir said...

Burleigh, is that you? I wish you had been there too. But I will see you in Amherst next August x

Nuala Ní Chonchúir said...

August 2017, I mean, of course.

Barbara Smith said...

Wonderful sights and sounds! Much better than the Brexit nightmare that's been going on here!

Nuala Ní Chonchúir said...

Thanks, B. Brexit upset us while we were away, it's bloody awful, but we soldiered on. (Some people we met thought Ireland was part of Britain, which v was curious...)

Maria said...

Sounds wonderful Nuala. Could feel my Paris fever rise as I read your intrepid travel and literature review!

Nuala Ní Chonchúir said...

I know *exactly* what you mean, Maria. I have that fever about Paris and New York, when I think about them. Magical places.