Poems after Germain Nouveau

Myriam Blundell Projects: Willums Art Foundation Residency ’15

Photo: Johan Hugosson

In April 2015 Jan was invited to attend the Myriam Blundell Projects: Willums Art Foundation Residency at the Mas de Graviers, Provence, France to work on a new screenplay commissioned by Redondo Beach International.

During his time in Provence, he came across the work of Germain Nouveau, a little known local poet who had befriended, lived and travelled with the legendary symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud. The following poems are inspired by Nouveau who is buried in the local cemetery at Pourrières.

The Forest

Night climbs down out of the watching forest
and holds its breath to the sound of a bell.

A dog barks in a distant yard
and the wild pigs nose over the slow moss.

Stars ripen on their silent vines
and the darkness spills across the glistening lawn

stirring shadows up to the lap of the terrace
and emptying milk into the still pool.

It is the colour of the cold summer wind
and the taste of the moon.

The frogs have it in their croaking throats
as they belch drunk in the midnight mud

and insects tick in the knotted branches
and a moth taps the glass;

night is at the locks,
with gloves it moves over the keys.

The day will drown all this out
and send the velvet retreating into the trees.

For now the spores sigh among the sleeping stones
and the odour of pine stings like sour wine.

Version 3

Pourrières

The town’s windows hang open mouthed and silent
and the buckled tiles send the sun scurrying
over the bird-less eves to chase the shade
out through the slanted streets.

The square is empty to the sound of a dry leaf
blown over the careful gravel
and the church bell is still
in its iron cage, creaking in the crooked heat.

Poor old Germain Nouveau forgets his bones
and dreams of Rome and the unburied dead
in the clay pink plains.

And time passes below the dial
where a quick cat studies the clock’s motto
and summer rises slow as hot loaves.

tiziano - concerto campestre
A copy of The Pastoral Concert by Titian (or Giorgione) that hangs in the Mas de Graviers, Pourriers. The following poem was inspired by it.

I asked them to be discreet, I told them
that if they wished to cavort naked
they could at least have the decency
to draw the curtains.

But they’ve gotten themselves into a terrible tangle
wrapped up in nothing but summer and white muslin.
Fortunately no one has noticed
there are no strings on my mandolin.

Can anyone tell there is no sound to my music?
Friend, this girl is tempting me into a duet.
The other one clearly thinks I’ve had too much to drink.

I can’t bear to watch as she pours my wine away.
Oh the shame. Even the sun has forgotten
how to light up my face.