Our third locked down poet is David Barnes who has been hosting, resplendent in top hat, Spoken World, which is the virtual version of Spoken Word, usually held in a dark and very atmospheric basement in the Le Chat Noir bar in trendy, edgy Belleville. One of the positives of lockdown is that I’ve been able to get to Paris almost every Monday night to join Spoken World, alongside poets from all over the globe.
So, David, how is lockdown in Paris?
In either one sentence, or three words, what has your experience of lockdown been like? Be as poetic as you like - extended metaphors welcome...
Still waters run deep.
Have you been able to write? And if so, has your writing focus changed? Did you surprise yourself?
Yes. I wrote an essay about my own writing process, trying to figure out the subtle feel of what it's like and how it works and where I go off track. It's a kind of useful map for myself. And a joy, a discovery in itself. It's useful groundwork because when I'm stuck or procrastinating rereading the essay gets my back into wanting to write. I also wrote a poem about lockdown and I've wrestled with getting a novel going, mostly exploring the themes and characters.
Have you discovered any new poets? Any good lockdown reading recommendations?
Yes. I moved my own event online and as well as seeing poets that I know in Paris I was also able to hear poets around the world who dropped in and read. Among the powerful poets I've heard is Michael Rothenberg who co-founded 100 Thousand Poets for Change. I'd spoken with him before but didn't know his poetry. His poem Sonya, which I believe will be published soon, was really something.
What is the most important thing you have discovered about yourself in lockdown?
Quiet joys are significant.
What have you been buying which you don't usually?
Unusual cooking ingredients.
David Barnes fell in love with poetry at Cholsey Junior School, Oxfordshire. He runs Spoken Word Paris every Monday, now in its 14th year. He has published poems in various magazines and won Shakespeare and Company's short story competition, Travel in Words. He ran a writers' workshop at Shakespeare & Company for over ten years and co-edited the anthology Strangers in Paris (Tightrope Books, 2011). He is the editor-in-chief of The Bastille journal. Website: spokenwordparis.org