Last night I went with three students to hear Charles Simic read his poetry at Shakespeare & Co. My friend Darin was right: it was a treat! His poetry seems to be quotidian (in a good way) and profound and funny and bleak all at the same time. I like to hear poetry read aloud but now I want to read some of his poetry on paper as well–a reading is ephemeral and you don’t quite have time to really consider what you’re hearing. In any case it was a perfect night and, of course, an excellent turnout. S&Co. had set up folding chairs and a sound system outside the shop (I don’t know how I thought they would do it inside; there isn’t room to swing a cat in there) and the whole little courtyard was filled.
We arrived about 1 minute before Simic was introduced, which was a lucky break because we had an adventure getting there. We were on the RER B when it slowed down, stopped briefly between stations (unhelpful recorded announcement: “This train has stopped between stations. Please stay inside the train and do not open the doors.”), slow-rolled through one or two more stops and finally parked, for lack of a better word, at Port-Royal. Incoherent announcements came over the intercom as is the practice in all transit systems, everywhere. “Mesdames et Messieurs, mumble mumble crackle static mumble. Merci de votre comprehension.” (That last part is the killer: “Thank you for your understanding,” when you have not understood a thing.) I finally worked out that there had been a fire at or near Gare du Nord. It must not have been serious because I can’t find anything about it in the news, but after several minutes they made us all get off the train.
Port-Royal does not connect to any other Métro or RER lines but I remembered Dr. Winchester’s favorite 38 bus and thought we’d try that. Of course, so did the rest of the train passengers, so we were packed into the bus tighter than I thought possible. But it worked! We got out at St. Michel-St. Germain, spotted Notre Dame, and successfully made port at Shakespeare & Co. After the reading we walked around Notre Dame and along the Seine a little bit, and a bouquiniste made some money from my students who bought souvenirs from him. I was the translator so he gave me two free postcards. Then we walked on in search of an uncrowded café and ended up at this small place on the Right Bank with a crusty, white-haired proprietress and a menu on a chalkboard. Sarah ordered an assiette de fromage but she only liked one of the fromages, so Radiance and Lindsay and I helped her finish it. First time I’d eaten proper cheese since arriving, and the only relevant question is why did I wait so long?
Meeting with Dr. Kirk this morning, then some grading, then maybe a nap because it was late by the time we got back. All this daylight makes it easy to stay up late. This afternoon, perhaps a museum?