Photo taken in Monforte d'Alba, Italy.

What is poetry? Why can't I always understand it and does it have to rhyme? The former, are questions that I used to ask myself, and the last ("latter"? Oh, fancy word!) is something that I am beginning to understand. One thing that I love about poésie* is that one can (it seems...) break all the rules of prose... in the name of emotion, or the evoking of it. (Now to figure out exactly what is "prose": is it always tied to "literary" or can it tie itself to an old battered fishing pole... and might the words, cast out, be just as meaningful?

Here is William Shakespeare's simple answer to today's question "Qu'est-ce que c'est la poésie?":

"La poésie est cette musique que tout homme porte en soi."
Poetry is that music that all men carry inside themselves.

~~~~~~~~~~~~Submit your poems & answers~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Following Shakespeare's example, above, would you please offer your own definition? That is: would you answer the question "What is poetry? Qu'est-ce que c'est la poésie?" Perhaps you would prefer to answer via a poem of your own? Thank you for sharing your thoughts and poésies in the comments box.

~~~~~~~~~~~~Today's Word~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
One reminder, before we get to our mot-du-jour... If you happen to be in or around London on the 21st, 22nd, or 23rd of this month, then please look for our Domaine Rouge-Bleu stand at the Barbican Centre (where the French Wine-Growers' Fair will soon be underway)!

*poésie (po-eh-zee) noun, feminine

    : poetry; poem, piece of poetry

[from the Greek "poiêsis]

Today's "poem", written and posted last year, is dedicated to my beautiful niece-by-marriage, Audrey. She is French and she is a student of linguistics in Verona, Italy. Though she has always been fond of language (especially Italian!), she is beginning to fall in love with writing (a gift, I believe, that she
inherited from her mother, Marie-Françoise*).

(photo: that's my daughter, Jackie, on the left, and Audrey on the right)


A word about the following "words": I scribbled down the first several stanzas as they echoed through my mind during the car ride home from the Italian "foot hills" or "pied mont." Not wanting to forget even one savory scene, the rest of the poem was conjured up as soon as we arrived home.


Write it down while it is fresh in your mind, fresh as the hand-grated parmesan that falls over scalding hot risotto.

Write it down while it is thick, thick as the brouillard* that covers a patchwork of grapevines on the rolling hills of northern Italy in December.

Write it down while it is still chattering, like the wrinkled signores' "Bene! bene!" in the town square at Monforte d'Alba.

Write it down while it is strong, strong as the ink-black espresso that fills half a demitasse* at Marco's place in Alba.

Write it down while it is pouring, like the olive oil my husband splashes onto his plate for bread-dipping while waiting for the antipasti.

Write it down while it flows, like red Dolcetto* from an uncorked bottle.

Write it down while it is dark, like the winter sky above the foothills in the Piedmont.

Write it down while it is hot, hot as the bagna cauda* that bathes the yellow roasted peppers and halved onions in Renza's kitchen.

Write it down while it is passionate, like the lovers' quarrel that silences an entire Italian cantina but for the flailing lips of one fiery Franco-American couple.

Write it down while it is fizzing like sparkling water, now swallowed (along with a bit of pride and an apology), at a pizza dive on the outskirts of Bra.

Write it down while it is funny, like the name of the Italian town above.

Write it down while it is sensual, like the lips of the kissing Italians. (Why do they call the twirling of tongues "French kissing"? You've not seen kissing until you've seen Italian kissing!)

Write it down while it is crisp, like the cotton sheets at Alberto's bed and breakfast in Castiglione Falletto.

Write it down before it is gone, never to return, like cappuccino foam at the bottom of a cup. Pop...pop...pop.... Poof!

                                          *     *     *
More stories... (and even a poem!) in my book, below. Thank you for picking up a copy at your local bookstore or online!

"Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language"

Marie-Françoise = Read a story written by my French aunt; le brouillard (m) = fog; demitasse (or demi-tasse, literally "half cup"); Dolcetto = a wine grape variety grown in northern Italy; bagna cauda (literally "hot bath") = a warm sauce (anchovies, olive oil, and garlic) for bread and boiled/roasted vegetables

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Quotes on Poetry~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Can you help translate these quotes on poetry? Thank you for sharing your English version here, in the comments box.

Listen to my daughter read aloud the first three quotes:  Download poesie.wav Download poesie.mp3

"La poésie immortalise tout ce qu'il y a de meilleur et de plus beau dans le monde." --Percy Bysshe Shelley

"Tout poème naît d'un germe, d'abord obscur, qu'il faut rendre lumineux pour qu'il produise des fruits de lumière." --René Daumal

"Qu'est-ce que la poésie? Une pensée dans une image."  --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"Douce poésie ! Le plus beau des arts ! Toi qui, suscitant en nous le pouvoir créateur, nous met tout proches de la divinité." --Guillaume Apollinaire

"A mesure qu'avance la civilisation, la poésie, presque nécessairement, décline."  --Thomas Macaulay

"Un poète est un rossignol qui, assis dans l'obscurité, chante pour égayer de doux sons sa propre solitude."  --Percy Bysshe Shelley

"Contre les voluptés des plus heureux du monde Je n'échangerais pas les maux que j'ai soufferts : C'est le plus grand soupir qui fait le plus beau vers." --Sully Prudhomme

"On ne retient presque rien sans le secours des mots, et les mots ne suffisent presque jamais pour rendre précisément ce que l'on sent." --Denis Diderot

Quotes found at

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Books & More!~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Penguin Book of French Poetry: 1820-1950; With Prose Translations

Joyeux Noel: Learning Songs and Traditions in French (K - Grade 4)

French in Action : A Beginning Course in Language and Culture

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety