Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Barcelona and southern France

In October Beth and I will travel to the southern coast of France for what I am calling our "poets, painters and heretics tour".
First we will spend a few days in Barcelona visiting Gaudi, Joan Miro, Picasso, Dali, and learning about the poets and prose writers of the Catalan language.
From there we will travel to the land of the langue d'oc, the land of the Provencal, language of the troubadors. We will stay at a small farm in the town of Euzet les Bains, and explore outward from there.
To prepare, I have been assembling a collection of books, perhaps too many, but a wonderful way to begin to try and understand these new places, and the cultures, languages and poetics that have developed there. I want to put up a list of the resources that I am using, in hopes that readers will have suggestions of other books and authors, places to go, things to see...
For Barcelona, I start with the Robert Hughes history, just called Barcelona. From there I branch out to read about Gaudi, Miro, Picasso, and Dali. I read George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, and start to read translations of Catalan language poets and prose writers. I read the mystery novels of Manuel Vasquez Montalban and Zafon's In the Shadow of the Wind.
For Provence, for the Langudoc, the reading is wide. I read Petrarch and hope to visit the location, in Avignon, where he first saw Laura, or to climb Mount Ventoux, ( both Petrarch and Mistral write about their climbs.) I read the troubador poems collected and translated in Proensa, and follow that with the poems and prose of Paul Blackburn, a translator of Troubador poems and also El Cid. I read the poems and memoir of Frederic Mistral, called "the Dante of Provence" - the champion of the Provencal language and culture, and winner of the Nobel Prize for poetry. (He used the money from the Nobel prize to create a museum of Provencal in Arles - another spot to visit) Mistral who says:" and no one knows/through what wild countries/this wandering rose returns". I read about the horses of the Camargue and hope to see them. I read A Walking Tour in Southern France - Ezra Pound among the Troubadors (as Pound walks Provence he speaks of "seeing in a way how many persons may flow through us or flow past us while we are alive."), and also his Spirit of Romance, with its essays on Troubadors, Provencal and more.I read the poems of Rene Char, and then of his American poetic heir Gustaf Sobin, as well as Sobin's three collections of Essays about the Languedoc region (Luminous Debris, Ladder of Shadows, Aura) I read Lawrence Durrell's Caesar's Vast Ghost - Aspects of Provence (Durrell says that in Provence "days come and sigh and disappear") and the travel essays on Arles and Albigensians by Zbigniew Herbert. I read about Van Gogh, Cezanne, Toulouse Lautrec.
For the heretics I dream of visiting Albi, to say hello to the Albigensians, and of visiting various Cathar strongholds.
There is too much, too much. Will I ever know enough in this life. The urge to go on learning, to stay constantly in the role of student of the world -
Pound says
"Fools, readers of books,
go south & live

layers of wind, shadows, voices,
horses on cave walls,
lichen struck limestone hello
Rhone, hello Camargue
the marys floating before the moon
cusp we call to you
in voices of loons, light
across the water to
join you, soon.

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