Saying “Part One : Life LXXXVII” and “Forbidden Fruit. II. ” by Emily Dickinson

This week here I am saying two short poems by Emily Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886).

Fighting for Emily Dickinson

I was attacked early in the morning on Friday night returning home from a party. I was not far from my house and my two young attackers did not hurt me too much. They managed to take my mobile phone from me, an iPhone 4 (so, at the time of this writing not the greatest phone available to consumers).

Street Fighting 2017

Having fought across the street and knocked me to the ground twice and I only having been able to knock one of them to the ground briefly (by throwing him across a green Parisian wheelie bin) we proceeded across the street to continue in their plan of giving me a sound beating and thereby relieve me of more of my possessions.

The Turning Point

It was at this time that they decided to try to take my bag containing my notebooks and two books of poetry. One of them was a compilation of Irish poets (Ten Poems from Ireland) and the other was a copy of Selected Poems by Emily Dickinson. My notebooks contained various drawings of the Fox and also preparation drawings for the performance piece in Toulon.

As they tried to rip the bag from me I resisted their attacks and grabbed the bag back from them. I managed to knock their plastic bag to the ground smashing the cheap bottle of vodka to pieces. They continued to attack me and lay about me.

The Cavalry (or Angels)

…And then we all heard shouts from above. People on a balcony above were telling them to stop. And then very quickly these people rushed down to us and when my youthful attackers saw that these people were coming they decided to run off. The people on the balcony had reminded them in an indirect way of their higher selves.

The people on the balcony and I gave chase but it was a little too late. I was very lucky that those people came to my rescue. I thanked them and then made my way home. I lost a jacket and a phone. I got a couple of bruises and they got a good kick and a phone. They lost a cheap bottle of vodka. They also missed a chance to spend some quality time with me. But we may meet again and perhaps we could do all of this properly and I could read them some poems, tell them a couple of jokes.

What has been happening to them since that morning

This may sound crazy but I am going to go out on a limb here. In Ireland a long time ago, one of the worst things that could happen to you was being cursed by a poet. Now, knowing a little about language and the danger of curses (they can backfire on you) I have been blessing my two attackers actively since the attack. I feel that violence breeds violence and I think that these two young men may have been coming out of a long period of difficulty. There is very little chance of things going better for them if they continue that way. Despite the general climate of hate and hostility I still believe that they are not choosing a career here.

Black Friday

France had just gone through its version of Black Friday and I feel that these two men were hoping or dreaming that they were finally going to find the thing in my pocket that somehow would fill this gap inside themselves. I am sorry for them that the iPhone 4 was probably not worth all the danger they put themselves through.

Despite all proof to the contrary I have a feeling that they have been going through a difficult time since the attack. My kick may still be hurting them. But more than that there are strange things happening in their dreams. Their imagination has now been opened up to other possibilities. Their plan (which I am sorry to say was not very well organised – another reason why they should reconsider their career choice) definitely did not go the way they wanted it to.

Wrong script

I even managed to say to them “guys you don’t know who you’re dealing with here”. If I’d had more time I would have added in “what I do I have are a very particular set of skills” but I think that first remark really annoyed them (or scared them: same difference) and they jumped on me before I could finish off the speech.

What has happened since then is really anybody’s guess but I believe in magic- I am a Magic Freak  ( link to the music from the duo electromenager where I sang this song over ten years ago- “I’m a victim but I’m always protected, I feel sorry for my enemies so dejected”). Still, my point is that when you meet people and show them another possibility, their imagination is opened, and even if it is not, I have a feeling that there are other forces at work that are now affecting them in ways that they cannot have imagined.


I am talking about dreams. How I don’t know but one of them, he is now remembering a childhood friend who is coming back to him in his dreams, holding his hand, coming back after all these years to play with him. His friend died, it was messed up but here he is reminding him of the beautiful golden things he could do. In another his mother (but it is not only his mother but also the poet Emily Dickinson too but he does not know that) is speaking to him, reminding him of things he had forgotten.

They are waking up and smoking spliffs trying to dampen down these dreams. But you know, Change, you cannot stop it. And that is what has been happening to these two young gentlemen since they laid hands on me. And I also laid hands on them. No punches, just a strange calm, like a dance. I held their arms, I held the ringleader by his wrist I helped him to cross the road.

Fair warning

I warned them. I gave them a chance. They decided to go ahead. So I helped them across the road.

And now, they will maybe never be able to speak to anyone about their strange dreams but their dreams are going to double, triple in intensity. Their only choice will be to turn towards the light.

Maybe I am wrong though…

What About Emily Dickinson?

So here is this week’s poem in honour of Emily Dickinson, whom I think may have enjoyed that night the sight of a poet, fighting, physically for her work ! And maybe Emily interceded with my young attackers and calmed their youthful ardour.

And the Fox?

And I will also be drawing a re- enactment of the fight by the Fox.


Because I am an artist and that is the only thing I know how to do : recycle my life. Turn the shit into something positive or at least entertaining. Maybe just an anecdote. Or a poem.

Thx Emily LOL!

Just remember : self defense = poetry books and sketch books.


Part One : Life

Forbidden fruit a flavour has
That lawful Orchards mocks ;
How luscious lies the pea within’
The pod that Duty locks !

Forbidden Fruit.

Heaven is what I cannot reach !
The apple on the tree,
Provided it do hopeless hang,
That ‘heaven’ is, to me.

The colour on the cruising cloud,
The interdicted ground
Behind the hill, the house behind, –
There Paradise is found !

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Saying “Definition of Your Attraction”

Short poem

Here I am saying a poem “Definition of Your Attraction” by János Pilinszky, (1921 – 1981) translated from the Hungarian.

I picked this poem because it is short. I have been very busy recently (you’ll read more about that on the website very soon) and I have not found time to learn a poem at all this week.

Short and simple?

Even though it is a short poem, when you know a little about Pilinszky’s life you appreciate this poem differently.


“Definition of Your Attraction”

On a fully broken-in animal’s back

a fully broken-in animal rides.

by János Pilinszky

Translated from the Hungarian by Peter Jay.

Saying Death of an Irishwoman by Michael Hartnett

Here I am Saying Death of an Irishwoman by Michael Hartnett.

This week here I am saying Death of an Irishwoman by Michael Hartnett.

This poem was written by Hartnett in memory of his grandmother, Bridget Halpin who died in 1965, aged 80. She raised Hartnett, who was a sickly child, when he was a young boy.

Missed funerals.

When she passed away Hartnett was in Morocco and missed the funeral. This poem is about the loss of this woman, whom he realises how much he loves her once she dies. It is also about the disappearance of the past, of all the knowledge, the songs, the language…

We never realise how much we miss things until they are gone. Also look how futile things are. These things that remain from the past, so fleeting. The memories that we have. Not all of the memories are good, with memories of the Black and Tans raiding the house. And yet, all of these memories seem to be universal- soldiers still raid houses, songs are not sung and more and more languages disappear.

Michael Hartnett an Irish poet was born in 1941 and died in 1991. He was a bilingual poet writing in both Irish and English.

Nettle soup

On the day I made the recording I made some nettle soup. It takes a little time to collect the nettles. I live in the city of Paris so I go out to the woods to collect the nettles. I got one of my sons to help me with his football gloves on. I was thinking of the poem as he collected the nettles. I remember eating nettle soup in Ireland. My aunt makes a great nettle soup. And her daughters too.

This auntie never forgets a birthday and for my birthday she actually sent me this pamphlet of Ten Poems from Ireland (selected and introduced by Paula Meehan) and this poem is the first in it. I had read it before. But I decided to learn this poem from the collection.

Funny to see how difficult it is to find nettles. This is also like those things that are so fleeting. You never realise how difficult it is to find them. I suppose my sons will remember the mornings where we collected nettles to make soup later on.

As we collected the nettles, I brought them to see an old bunker from the second world war. It is off the beaten track, overgrown with plants. Some nice nettles nearby…

To quote from the introduction by Paula Meehan, the poem “opens doors in the imagination, it starts conversations. It is a poem many of us carry as a talisman, as medicine bundle, as a reminder that important culture bearers often appear in humble guise.”

The effect of poetry

This is what I am learning more and more through making poems a part of me. Earlier on in the week I was invited to a dinner in the Centre Culturel Irlandais and it was great to see and meet all the other artists, one in particular Breanndán O Beaglaoich (he is much younger in the link here) was in particular fine form that night. I regretted that I didn’t know the poem Death of an Irishwoman by that time because I am sure he would have loved it. I am sure he knows it. It was an evening of song and poetry and chat as well. No one got their nose broken though… Not while I was there anyway.

Breanndán O Beaglaoich told us how his first language was Irish and he had learnt English later on in life. He sang beautiful songs and played beautiful music on the accordeon. He sang Roisin Dubh so beautifully. He told us a little about the history of the song. I think this so fascinating to imagine these songs being sung for so long. And we all remember songs that we were sung when we were young. This moment of the song in the present and in the past at the same time. I thought sometimes of recording some of it on my phone but it was not one of those moments. The moment had to be lived. The moment was eternal.

What is culture? Is it outside of us? Is it something that lives through us? Is it only those things that are organised by the festivals and official organisations? Or is it “a child’s purse, full of useless things?”

Death of an Irishwoman

By Michael Hartnett

Ignorant, in the sense
she ate monotonous food
and thought the world was flat,
and pagan, in the sense
she knew the things that moved
at night were neither dogs nor cats
but púcas and darkfaced men,
she nevertheless had fierce pride.
But sentenced in the end
to eat thin diminishing porridge
in a stone-cold kitchen
she clenched her brittle hands
around a world
she could not understand.
I loved her from the day she died.
She was a summer dance at the crossroads.
She was a card game where a nose was broken.
She was a song that nobody sings.
She was a house ransacked by soldiers.
She was a language seldom spoken.
She was a child’s purse, full of useless things.

© 1975, The Estate of Michael Hartnett
From: Collected Poems
Publisher: The Gallery Press, Oldcastle, 2001
ISBN: 978 1 85235 295 0

Editor’s Note: púcas: pookas, hobgoblins. In the Irish language a man of African descent is described as a “blue man”, fear ghoirm. In Irish, “an fear dubh” (“the black man”) exclusively denotes the devil. The “darkfaced men” of this poem does not have a racial connotation.