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mardi 27 novembre 2012

An open letter to François Hollande (Please Mr President, save the Printemps des Poètes)

Thanks to our FB friend,  Christelle Fourastié, we put online today here and on the page Sauvons le Printemps des Poètes an English translation of Francis Combes "Open letter to François Hollande". Mr. Combes is President of the Association of Independent Publishers and Director of the Biennale of poets in Val-de-Marne. Mr. Hollande is the President of the French Republic.

After reading you can sign the petition here.

Grâce à notre amie Facebook, Christelle Fourastié, nous mettons en ligne aujourd'hui ici et sur la page FB Sauvons le Printemps des Poètes la traduction en anglais de la Lettre ouverte de Francis Combes à François Hollande.

Sous le réel le plus obtus bat le coeur de la poésie.
Under the bluntest reality beats the heart of poetry. 
Mr President,

We are very worried about the information we are hearing from different sides regarding cultural life and more specifically the space left for poetry in France. One of the most concerning pieces of information is related to the Printemps des Poètes (“Poets’ Spring”). Everyone knows the role it has played for many years to make poetry flourish, express and spread to every corner of this country. 

The Ministry of Education, which had always contributed to this association’s functioning, has just cut its subsidies by 60 000€. These actions place the Printemps des Poètes in a very difficult position. 
The period of austerity we are currently going through and the necessity of savings to be done will probably be given as a reason… However this harsh treatment seems for the moment unequally shared. 

Could it possibly be understood that the government’s position (and particularly within the Ministry in charge of youth education) is that poetry is thought to be a luxury, an extra touch of soul which most of our fellow citizens could live without with no serious consequences ? If this were to be the case, it would be a serious mistake.

Poetry is not just a gratuitous play on words. Even if this playful aspect is part of its possibilities. Or, if it is a game, it is a vital one, just as vital a game for child’s development and their ability to mature. Poetry is the expression of a human beings’ ability to “inhabit the world”, to make the world his own, to open up to people, to experience reality deeper and at the same time to dream it, to transform it by the power of imagination. As its best, poetry is a sensitive lucidity, one of the highest forms of consciousness. 

A people deprived of poetry would be a dreamless people. 

In the 1948 text entitled La Fonction Poétique (“Poetic Function”), Pierre Reverdy was already writing : “No, poetry is not this useless and gratuitous thing without which one could easily live – poetry lies at the beginning of mankind, poetry’s roots can be found in humanity’s destiny. (…) Poetry is the magical act of transmutation of the outside reality into an inside reality without which mankind could never have overcome this inconceivable hurdle that nature had erected in front of humanity.”

Detracting this poetic function, which has so much to do with the very essence of human freedom (which is about not resigning to the reality as it is), would mean going to the direction of the slope, which exists in our society and leads to consider men and women as consumers and not as producers, as customers of an imaginary world deprived of imagination and not as creators of their lives and futures. That slope is the one that tends to transform people, masters of their destiny, into merely a passive and tractable population. 

Reducing culture, today as yesterday, always opens the way for stupidity and fascism. 
Besides, this necessary characteristic of poetic function seems to me especially obvious in times of crisis such as the one we are going through currently. When many aspects of social life compel us to resign ourselves in front of what is perceived as fatality, the use of poetry appears for what it is in the eyes of many people: a salve contre l’habitude (“a salvo against habits”; to quote Henri Pichette). Poetry is a revolt against a dreary life, a seemingly modest action but nevertheless precious in order to imagine the world. 

Now, isn’t this what we lack the most: the ability of dreaming the future and the world’s transformation? Rimbaud’s old catch phrase, Changer la vie (“Change life”), is still the plan shared by poets worldwide. In my opinion, there is little doubt that poetry could exist without utopia. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the reasons for explaining the success of many poetical events, such as the poems poster campaign in the Parisian underground, of which I was in charge with Gérard Cartier for fifteen years, the Printemps des Poètes and the various fairs and festivals which contribute in the revival of poetic life in France.

Being regularly invited to festivals abroad, it is with great resignation that I am sometimes witness to the sentiment that French poetry is acclaimed with a higher esteem outside our very own borders.
The absence of poetry in mass media, its marginalization in the publishing industry and finally the back cuts that target it, all these facts substantiate my argument. 

A left-wing policy actually worthy of its name would rather strive to cultivate passion for culture, knowledge and arts, to encourage people to have a critical mind, a taste of reality and the ability to daydreaming.

That is why, Mr President, I ask you to examine with your government the possibility of restoring the Printemps des Poètes subsidy and to promote initiatives in favour of poetry. 

Francis Combes
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