Poetry, Passion and President Pompidou: Interview with French Poet Jean-Luc Pouliquen

Poetry, Passion and President Pompidou: Interview with French Poet Jean-Luc Pouliquen
French Poet Jean-Luc Pouliquen Talks about President Georges Pompidou’s “Passion for Poetry” and the State of Poetry Today – Including his Own Translated into English by Beth S. Gersh-Nešić Bonjour Paris marked the 40th anniversary of the Centre Georges Pompidou in January by offering a list of events in 2017 throughout France. Before the festivities end, let us not forget that President George Pompidou loved poetry passionately, according to French poet and literary critic Jean-Luc Pouliquen, who published Georges Pompidou, un président passionné de poésie with a preface by the president’s son Dr. Alain Pompidou (Édition L’Harmattan, 2016). Pouliquen also wrote about book about Pompidou’s love of art in Dali, son mécène et le président (Dalì, his Patron and the President, 2016). Here in an exclusive interview with Jean-Luc Pouliquen, we learn about President Pompidou’s literary background, the state of poetry in France since President Pompidou published his Anthology of French Poetry (1961), and Pouliquen’s own journey as a poet with examples of his poetry which address the concerns of our time and the Garlaban poets. Pouliquen is the author of numerous books of poetry and prose, and numerous books on poetry and prose. Born in Toulon, he currently resides in beautiful Hyères. He was the editor of Cahiers de Garlaban from 1987 to 1997 and has been an active member of organizations that bring arts festivals to Southern France. Personally, I am a great fan of his delicious little novel about a chance encounter of a man and woman in Hyères called La Fille de la Lune (2014); his non-fiction literary jewel Robert Louis Stevenson à Hyères, translated into English by Bridget Tilleray (2015); and his intriguing art history investigation Dalì, son mécène et le président (2016), wherein we learn about Salvador Dalì’s Tuna Fishing (La Pêche au Thon : Hommage à Meissonier) painted in 1966-67, which belongs to the Fondation Paul-Ricard, Bandol/Ile de Bandor, located not far from Pouliquen’s hometown. Since Jean-Luc Pouliquen’s poetry may not be familiar to you, we thought it might be fun to present two poems in French and English, selected from his collection of poems in Mémoire sans tain, Poetry (1982-2002) (Edition L’Harmattan, 2009). Pouliquen’s blog is L’Oiseau de feu du Garlaban and his poems are also available on Youtube.    * * * BGN: Bonjour, Jean-Luc, congratulations on being a guest at one of the private festivities to honor the memory of President Georges Pompidou and the 40th anniversary of this spectacular museum. You wrote about President Pompidou’s love of poetry in Georges Pompidou, un président passionné de poésie. When did you decide to write this book and why did you take it upon yourself to pursue this study? JLP: In December 2014 I met Bernard Esambert who was Georges Pompidou’s advisor at the Palais de l’Elysée and today is the president of the Institut Georges Pompidou. I was able to ask him questions that I had been thinking about for quite some time concerning the connection between Georges Pompidou and poetry. His answers enchanted me and encouraged me to pursue my investigation. Georges Pompidou could recite Baudelaire, Apollinaire or Aragon during informal meetings with his staff. BGN: Can you tell our readers about Pompidou’s taste in poetry? Do you think he was a product of his education or the generation in which he emerged as a young adult? JLP: Georges Pompidou’s taste in poetry surpassed his classical literary education and developed throughout his entire life. He was the author of an Anthology of French Poetry and had been friends with great poets, such as Léopold Sédar Senghor whom he knew when he was a student in Paris and later on when he had become the president of the Republic of Senegal. His political policies bear the mark of one attuned to human aspirations and profound ideals in the same way that poetry is capable of translating them. For example, he was the leader who created the first Ministry of the Environment in France, followed by a speech delivered to the Alliance Française de Chicago on February 28, 1970, about the potential destruction of nature due to the increasing impact of technology and science. BGN: Did this concern about nature influence his taste in poetry? Is that evident in his anthology? JLP: Georges Pompidou was born in a little village in the center of France surrounded by nature. He was not at the time a pantheist. His classical background demonstrated to him that the city could also be a center of influence for the mind. In addition, as President of the Republic, he led a bold political agenda for the industrialization of France. His passion for poetry came first and foremost from listening to the chants of the human soul which rose out of the city or the countryside, across the centuries. His anthology begins with the Ballad of Paris by the poet Eustache Deschamps (1340-1404). BGN: How does his taste compare to yours? Please tell us about your own education and generation in the history of French poetry. You studied sociology with Michel Crozier and Henri Mendras at l’Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris. When did you decide to become a poet? Georges Pompidou in 1965. Photo: Wikimedia…

Lead photo credit : Photo: Office de Tourisme Hyères

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Beth S. Gersh-Nešić, Ph.D. is an art historian and the director of the New York Arts Exchange, an arts education service that offers tours and lectures in the New York tristate area. She specializes in the study of Cubism and has published on the art criticism of Apollinaire’s close friend, poet/art critic/journalist André Salmon. She teaches art history at Purchase College in Westchester, New York. She has recently published a book with French poet/literary critic Jean-Luc Pouliquen called "Transatlantic Conversation: About Poetry and Art."