“The last I saw of Count Dracula was his kissing his hand to me,
with a red light of triumph in his eyes,
and with a smile that Judas in hell might be proud of.”


~ Bram Stoker ~


000-the-countDigitally enhanced image created from an original photo taken in October 2009.

© 2016 nightpoet all rights reserved

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“the world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.”


~ e e cummings ~


000-cummings-and-goingsPhoto of the cover and signed and numbered dedication page of e e cummings’ book EIMI (1933 – a Soviet travelogue) from this author’s personal collection.

© 2016 nightpoet all rights reserved

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“Every man needs his Siren
To check his courage and strength
When he hears her song
In his travels through the unknown.”


~ Dejan Stojanovic ~


000-loreleiDigitally enhanced image created from an original photo of the Lorelei taken in Germany in July 1982.

© 2016 nightpoet all rights reserved

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“Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,” thought Alice,
“but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!”


~ Lewis Carroll ~

000 suspiciously spread-eagledStreet art photo taken in the Passage des Patriarchs in Paris in May 2016.

Previous posts about Alice can be accessed here:

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“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.”


~ Oscar Wilde ~


000 the clearest nightDigitally enhanced image created from an original photo taken in the Rue Jacob in Paris in May 2013.

© 2016 nightpoet all rights reserved

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“A book is a fragile creature, it suffers the wear of time, it fears rodents, the elements and clumsy hands. So the librarian protects the books not only against mankind but also against nature and devotes his life to this war with the forces of oblivion.”


~ Umberto Eco ~


000 twist of fateThe book is from my personal collection. Photos taken in March 2016.

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“I turned silences and nights into words.
What was unutterable, I wrote down.
I made the whirling world stand still.”

~ Arthur Rimbaud ~


000 rimbaudPhoto portrait of Arthur Rimbaud at age 17 by Étienne Carjat taken in 1871.

An excellent half hour BBC production of Rimbaud’s A Season In Hell can be heard here:

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“So many books, so little time.”

~ Frank Zappa ~



000 timeless tomesPhoto taken in February 2016.

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…walking a mile in someone else’s shoes might give you a different perspective, but then it might also give you blisters…



000 cinderellaPhoto taken in November 2015.


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An article in the New York Times caught my eye today. It would seem that rumours about the death of printed books have been greatly exaggerated. E-books have not sent traditional books packing as many predicted just a few years ago. In fact according to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales fell by 10 percent in the first five months of this year and have been slowing down or leveling out for a while now. The sale of e-book reading devices has also taken a nose dive, with consumers preferring to use their tablets or smart phones. And lets face it, even the most hopped up digital junkie hasn’t completely forgotten the experience of reading a printed tome. Digital devices can easily become a source of stress, when things jumble up and don’t work properly, whereas a book is always a relaxing experience. No knobs to turn. No buttons to push. No technical glitches. If you think about it, when the power goes out, or the battery is empty, your smart phone, tablet, e-book reader or computer are just worthless pieces of over-priced junk. It’s hard to read an e-book on a device that is dead; you just sit in the dark holding an expensive piece of plastic. But, staying with the scenario of a power outage or a dead battery, if you have a candle and a printed book, you’re good to go, anytime, every time. Digital books have their advantages and their place in today’s world, but nothing beats the experience and pleasure of immersing oneself in a real book, turning the pages and holding something wonderful in your hands…


The New York Times article can be accessed here:


Photo taken in Paris in May 2013.


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…the right place at the right time…


Paris comes to life on a Saturday morning, like a sleepy cat rolling over and stretching. This is the Rue Git-le-Coeur, the narrow street, dating from the 13th century, down which, between the years 1958 and 1963, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso and Brion Gysin often stumbled to and from their rooms in the Beat hotel. And while the author Barry Miles can describe the scene so much better than I can, I will quote from his excellent book, The Beat Hotel:

The Beat Hotel was located at 9, rue Git-le-Coeur, a narrow medieval lane running down to the Seine from the rue St. Andre des Arts to the quai Augustins in the oldest part of the Latin Quarter. In the thirteenth century the street was called rue de Gilles-le-Queux or Guy-le-Queux (Guy the cuisinier, or cook). It was known also as rue Guy-le-Preux. Over the centuries this transformed into Git-le-Coeur, which Brion Gysin claimed was a pun on the street name made in the early seventeenth century by Henri IV, the first Bourbon King of France, whose mistress lived on the street. The King passed by one day and remarked “Ici git mon coeur” (“Here lies my heart”). Like many of Gysin’s stories, it is probably untrue, but it sounds just fine.

An alternate story, found in Nichol’s Guide to Paris, claims that the street name commemorates the murder of Etienne Marcel, Provost of the Merchants and one of the fathers of Paris. On the night of July 31, 1358, he was assassinated in this street by Jean Maillart, a mercenary in the pay of the Dauphin Charles; the word git means “lies,” as on a tombstone inscription: “ci-git,” or “there lies.”

Today there is an expensive modernized hotel at the location. But in the late 1950’s the hotel was very run down. To give you an idea of what it was like to live there I quote further from Mr. Miles’ book:

The forty-two rooms had no carpets or telephones. Some were very dark, as their windows looked out onto the stairwell inside the building and so received only indirect lighting from the grimy landing windows. The corridors sloped at strange angles and the floors creaked and groaned. The ancient wooden doors had a handle in the middle instead of the side. Each landing had a Turkish chiotte: a traditional hole-in-the-floor toilet with a raised footprint-shaped platform on either side upon which to position your feet while you squatted. Torn sheets of newspaper hung on a nail in lieu of toilet tissue, though many residents bought their own and carried it with them. There was a bath on the ground floor but advance notice had to be given so that the water for it could be heated. Naturally there was a small surcharge for this service. Brion Gysin maintained that if you put your head under the water in the bath, you could hear the gurgling of the Bièvre, the underground river that enters the Seine a few blocks east of the rue Git-le-Coeur, across from Notre Dame—a claim he enlarged upon in his novel The Last Museum. Like everything else in the building, the plumbing was ancient, and it was consequently subject to backups, clankings, fiercely loud vibrations, and leaks. There was radiator heat all week and hot water only on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

A link to the New York Times review of The Beat Hotel by Barry Miles is below, as well as a link to a previous post about the Beat Hotel from my blog.


000 Rue Git Le CoeurThis photo of the Rue Git-le-Coeur in Paris was taken in August 2015.


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I view life as a fortuitous collaboration ascribable to the fact that one finds oneself in the right place at the right time. For us, the “right place” was the famous “Beat Hotel” in Paris, roughly from 1958 to 1963.

Brion Gysin, The Third Mind


One afternoon, as I wandered down the Rue Gît-le-Cœur, I passed the small four-star Hotel Relais du Vieux Paris, which was once the location of the famous Beat Hotel. In the mirrored windows of one of its doors I took this self-portrait. Located at number 9, in the 1940’s and 1950’s, The Beat Hotel was a small, run-down hotel with 42 rooms, a “class 13” hotel, meaning bottom line, a place that was required by law to meet only minimum health and safety standards in the Latin Quarter of Paris. It had never been given a proper name, acquiring the its identity when Gregory Corso referred to it as The Beat Hotel during one of his stays there. Frequented by Corso, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin and others between 1957 until it closed in 1963, The Beat Hotel had an atmosphere that encouraged creativity and crazy times. For one short period it became the center of the Beat Poetry movement. Today, after some initial reluctance to come to terms with its past, the present hotel identifies itself with its history. A few photos of its former inhabitants adorn the walls of the reception room and a plaque hanging on the wall outside lists some of the literary figures who stayed there. You can read a review and an excerpt from Barry Miles’ excellent book, “The Beat Hotel” at this link:


000 SP Beat HotelPhoto taken at The Beat Hotel in Paris in May 2015.


© 2015 nightpoet all rights reserved

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Celebrated every June 16th, Bloomsday has become not only a celebration of James Joyce’s Ulysses, but of his life.  If you think that Ulysses is hard to read, try Finnegans Wake. It’s like Gertrude Stein on acid and crystal meth. But if you listen to Joyce reading his own work, his experimental use of language suddenly becomes very understandable. Maybe it has something to do with his Irish brogue. There will be many readings of Ulysses and other of Joyce’s works today all over the world, but no one can read them like the master himself. You can listen to him reading a section of Anna Livia Plurabelle from Finnegans Wake on the link below:



000 BloomsdayAn album released by the James Joyce Society on Folkways Records from 1951 that contains a track of Joyce reading from Anna Livia Plurabelle.

000 Joyce SigThe title and  copyright pages of a specially issued edition of Anna Livia Plurabelle published in 1928, signed by James Joyce. From my personal archives.


© 2015 nightpoet all rights reserved

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Writers are persistent revisers. This is for the most part a good thing because sometimes the first draft just doesn’t cut the mustard. For example, take Gertrude Stein’s famous line in the poem Sacred Emily, “a rose is a rose is a rose.” Things might have turned out quite different without a bit of revision…


000 Rosa RugosaPhoto taken in Paris near the Eiffel Tower in May 2014.


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Most people who read Shakespeare’s plays and poems assume that he had a rather large vocabulary. One thing is certain; he was a very inventive wordsmith, often coining new words and phrases within his works. Which is not surprising since at the time he was writing the English language was undergoing a large influx of new words. This embellishment of the language took place between 1550 and 1650 and was due, in part, to more works being printed, the influx of foreign words from other cultures due to the increase in exploration and trade and the development of new terminology for scientific studies. But was this playwright, who was educated and learned his English in a provincial grammar school setting in Stratford-upon-Avon, far removed from the more standardized English that was taught in London, really in possession of a huge vocabulary?

One of the best sources of information about Shakespeare’s vocabulary is a book by David Crystal called Think On My Words: Exploring Shakespeare’s Language (Cambridge University Press, 2008). Mr. Crystal proposes a figure of about 20,000 separate words for the size of Shakespeare’s vocabulary. Now, the available vocabulary at the time Shakespeare was writing his plays and poems is estimated to be about 150,000 words. Shakespeare had a large recorded vocabulary because he wrote across a number of different genres and, simply because he wrote a lot more than his contemporaries. Mr. Crystal goes on to propose an active vocabulary of 50,000 words for an educated twenty-first century person, drawing on an available vocabulary of the some 600,000 words that can be found in the Oxford English Dictionary.

So, how do we stack up against the Bard? What conclusions can be drawn from these figures? Well, according to Mr. Crystal, Shakespeare’s vocabulary is less than half of your own and represents a slightly lower proportion of the available words than you have at your disposal. Of course, a case could be made that we are comparing apples and oranges here, but in the end, it is not really the number of words that Shakespeare had in his vocabulary that matters, but the sheer beauty and genius with which he used them…


Shakespeare is buried in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. His gravestone bears an epitaph which Shakespeare himself supposedly wrote. It warns:

Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.


000 Shakespeares GravestoneAn actual charcoal rubbing of Shakespeare’s gravestone made in 1975. Photo taken in March 2015.

You can get more information on Shakespeare’s epitaph at this interesting link:


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Today I have created a meme with three of my favourite quotes from the great French writer Voltaire. Wikipedia give this short description of him, if you need to refresh your memory:

“François-Marie Arouet (Voltaire was his nom de plume) was a French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher famous for his wit, his attacks on the established Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and separation of church and state. Voltaire was a versatile writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets. He was an outspoken advocate, despite the risk this placed him in under the strict censorship laws of the time. As a satirical polemicist, he frequently made use of his works to criticize intolerance, religious dogma, and the French institutions of his day.”

Voltaire lived a long, full and adventurous life. He is one of France”s most revered, respected and honoured writers. And he was a friend of Ben Franklin. Need I say more? His wit and his wisdom seem very appropriate in our day and age…

000 Voltaire Quotes


© 2015 nightpoet all rights reserved

Categories: France, History, Literature, Paris, Perspective, Theater | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments



Breakfast January 3 2015



Good morning and welcome once again to another edition of Breakfast On The Blog, the first of this New Year. Today I have taken an illustration by Gustav Olms from a long out of print German book titled Unsere jungen Mädchen, first published in 1901 and written by W.K. Saffeini, and combined it with one of my poems. The book, a series of short essays on the “awakening” of young girls, was confiscated by the German state prosecutor at the time of its publication. In ten short stories Saffeini presented a kaleidoscopic image of the young women of his time, “as they grow up in the protective bosom of the family, as they thrive in the metropolitan mist and greenhouse air of modern social life” (“wie sie im schützenden Schoß der Familie erwachsen, wie sie in Großstadtdunst und Treibhausluft des modernen Gesellschaftslebens gedeihen” – quote taken from the author’s introduction). As one can see, bosoms were to be abundantly seen in the illustrations, which is probably why the authorities banned the book.

000 Neverness

Illustration by Gustav Olms from a long out of print German book titled Unsere jungen Mädchen, first published in 1901 and written by W.K. Saffeini.


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As our culture slowly begins to become addicted to electronic technology something dark and evil is happening. Like Monsanto’s attempts to patent, own and control the world’s food supply and like Nestlé’s blatant attempt to take over the world’s water resources with the philosophy that “human beings don’t have a basic right to water” (unless you buy Nestlé’s bottled regurgitated water), the huge sales and distribution giant Amazon has been quietly and sometimes not so quietly taking over the e-book industry, and I’m not just talking about the sale of e-books, though I have read that they control 90% of the e-book market. They have been manipulating prices for quite some time, but now they have upped the ante and are beginning to use tactics reminiscent of a fascist monopoly in discriminating against certain companies that don’t kowtow to their wishes, raising the prices of the publisher’s books, delaying shipment of these books and making it harder for customers to order them. It was bad enough that the Nazis burned books they decided didn’t meet their approval, now we have a worldwide corporation wanting to determine what you can read, when you can read it, how much you will pay for it, and if that isn’t bad enough, they also want to control who will get published and what those authors will receive in royalties. Eventually the scenario will become something like, if you don’t agree to their terms, your work will never see the light of day. The phrase “banned in Boston” will be rephrased to “banned on Amazon.” And the disturbing question is “What will happen to books when Amazon controls the entire industry?”

For years Amazon has marketed itself as the book buyer’s bosom buddy, selling books at fantastically low prices, delivering them with lightening speed, and being at the forefront in the development of new technologies to enhance the way we read. Sounds like a marriage made in heaven for the avid reader. But wait a minute. To quote a famous author, “There’s something rotten in the state of Denmark.” It’s bad enough that Amazon has been the driving force behind putting thousands of small bookshops out of business, shops that simply cannot compete with the volume of books that Amazon moves, which in turn allows them to sell books much more cheaply than the Mom and Pop shops ever could. The closing of both the Village Voice and The Red Wheelbarrow bookstores in Paris in 2012 are good examples of large monopolies like Amazon tilting the scales against the “walk in put your hands on a musty old tome or a bright brand new book” brick-and-mortar type of bookstore. On the blog “Parisian Fields” that she publishes with photographer Norman Ball, Philippa Campsie perhaps put it best (and more eloquently than I could have, though I see the issue in the same light) when she wrote in September 2013:

“Books are objects, like typewriters, that once performed a function. And for many people, the function can be performed in other ways, through other media. But bookshops have a function too. They were never just about selling books. They hosted readings and launches, and they were places to go for conversation and news. At the Red Wheelbarrow, the people behind the desk recommended not just books, but the best boulangerie in the area. The staff weighed in on the merits of local cafés, and introduced us to other browsers crowding into the tiny space. You can’t get that on an e-book. In Paris, where sometimes it can be hard to find one’s feet and where much is unfamiliar, a space like the Red Wheelbarrow allowed us to feel on solid ground. Lost bookshops are lost friends. When a place like that disappears, it is not just the end of a business, it is the end of a friendship.”

The French are fighting back though. When the country’s 3,000 independent bookshops complained they weren’t able to compete with cut-price offers online, a new bill was proposed in the French Assembly in October 2013, supported by both the right and the left, that would prohibit companies like Amazon from offering the combined 5% reductions and free deliveries on books. The bill was approved by the Senate in January 2014 and became law. In another interesting take on the bill, the BBC’s Paris correspondent Christian Fraser, in an October 2013 report, said the bill “might be seen as payback” for Amazon’s practices of reporting European sales through a holding company located in Luxembourg, to take advantage of comparatively low corporate tax rates. In the past French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti has criticized Amazon’s practices, particularly the free deliveries and its rather blatant policy of “tax optimization.” In June 2013, in response to Amazon’s charge that the new bill would be discriminatory towards the online retailer, Ms Filippetti said, “Today, everyone has had enough of Amazon. (The company) slashes prices to get a foothold in markets only to raise them once they have established a virtual monopoly.”

Ah yes, there’s that word again, monopoly. Unfortunately in the United States, which these days would be better called the Republican Corporation Of America, the government isn’t about to take Amazon to task for its price-fixing. After all, Amazon aggressively pursued Apple over its e-book policies and price-fixing, persuaded the Department of Justice to sue them and then took Apple all the way to the bank. So Uncle Sam isn’t going to smack Amazon upside the head about their monopolistic practices anytime soon. Not like the French, who have always had a better attitude towards small businesses and who are proud of their local stores, considering them essential in bringing culture to both Paris and the small villages. And you can help the cause by boycotting Amazon e-books and by buying your paperbacks and hardbound books at a brick-and-mortar bookstore whenever you can. Let’s not allow technology to become the book burner of our future.

000 BookstorePhoto of a small French bookshop in Paris taken in May 2013.


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“This place was to be our home on and off for the next year and a half. It was here that I tried seriously to write for the first time, here I brought my two or three girls, and here I met the woman with whom I at last fell in love and whom, however miserable the outcome of that love, I shall always remember in this setting as she undressed one night in a luminous haze of gas-light and moonbeams before we threw ourselves in ecstasy on one of Mr Boomhower’s straw-stuffed beds. It was the theatre of my youth.” ~ John Glassco in Memoirs Of Montparnasse

What an amazing place Paris was in the 1920’s, when, for an all too short period of time, an incredible group of mainly American, Canadian, English, Irish and French writers, artists and “Lebenskünstlers” fell together by chance and design and gave birth to the first great movements of 20th Century literature and art. Conceived between 1900 and 1914, it was the end of The Great War in 1918 that brought the conception to term and unleashed this strange creature like a hungry wolf onto the streets of Montparnasse. And there it thrived and grew.

The young men and women who were at the vortex of this “Lost Generation,” to use Gertrude Stein’s clichéd to death description of the writers and artists she met in Paris in the 1920’s, weren’t really lost. Like any young generation they were pursuing their dreams, as varied, complex and unrealistic as they often were. But it was within this amazingly connected circle of creative geniuses that the foundation was laid for modern art and literature. Almost all of the expatriates from America came to Paris because Paris at that moment in time embraced them, their ideas and their alternative lifestyles like no other place in the world, least of all in the United States. Yes, Paris had embraced them, coveted their creativity and provided them with the inspiration and the means to pursue their endeavours. Paris drank them all down deep. And by the time the party was, for the most part, over, after the crash in October 1929, Paris had spit the majority of them back out, some tattered, torn and dark, others successful and shining, but all devoid of their original dream. For Paris is a most beautiful yet cruel mistress, who will wrap you in her arms in the beginning, but in the end will do her best to suck you dry as youth fades and life’s mundane reality sets in, or as was the case at the end of the 1930’s when the crazed vision of a worthless Austrian artist plunged the world into madness.

It is a curious observation that one war was the spark that ignited the creative flame and another war was the bitter wind that blew the fire out. But that has been the pattern of history for ages, and no doubt will be the blueprint for future generations as well. Whenever I take time off for a sojourn in Paris I am searching for many things, but always a top priority is to find the few existing traces of the Paris that bloomed so richly between those two wars. A few can still be found, but most are no longer there and are only accessible when you close your eyes and let your imagination wander back. The many shelves of books I have at home filled with book after book documenting and analyzing those times, the personal memoirs written by the participants, their works of thinly disguised fiction that have now become standard reading in schools, my collection of original editions and other curious odds and ends have all, over the years, given me a good foundation and a keen sense of the spirit of that short golden period. But what I find most interesting are the works of the lesser known alumni of Montparnasse. Everyone knows and many have read Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Djuna Barnes, Janet Flanner, Kay Boyle and Nancy Cunard, but who, other than a devoted student of the period, has ever read much by Robert McAlmon, Bryher (Annie Winifred Ellerman), John Glassco, Malcolm Cowley, Harold Loeb, Mary Butts, Mina Loy, Man Ray’s autobiography or even the memoirs of the Queen of Montparnasse, Kiki, or the recollections of the quarter’s famous barman Jimmie Charters?

On my most recent trip to The City Of Light I picked up a copy Of Bob McAlmon’s “The Nightingouls Of Paris” (University of Illinois Press 2007) and upon my return home managed to dig up an old copy of John Glassco’s “Memoirs Of Montparnasse” (Oxford University Press 1970) from a book seller on the Internet. McAlmon’s book had lain in the archives of Yale University as an unpublished typescript since, having lost his notebook manuscripts upon leaving France in late 1940, he rewrote it from memory after his return to America and it found its way into the Yale archives after his death. Sanford J. Smoller has done a fine job of bringing the novel to light after its long hibernation. Glassco’s book, although he admitted fictionalizing parts of it, parallels McAlmon’s to some extent, covering the time both of them and Glassco’s lifelong friend and devoted partner Graeme Taylor spent together between 1929 and 1931. Both are interesting inner perspectives of life in Montparnasse as the great golden time was winding down and coming to an end. Glassco returned to Canada in 1931 after coming down with tuberculosis, eventually having a lung removed in 1935. He did have success as a Canadian poet and a writer of erotica until his death in 1981. McAlmon was not as lucky. The literary genius behind the Contact Editions of the 1920’s, who had written short stories and poems, published Hemingway’s first book and many others, the man who had been James Joyce’s financial supporter, occasional typist and regular drinking companion and the author of “Being Geniuses Together,” published in 1938, returned to the United States in late 1940, and went to work as a truss salesman for his two brothers George and Bert in their Surgical Supply Store in Phoenix, Arizona and died almost unknown in his native country sixteen years later. Only recently has his legacy found a new and well deserved recognition.

The young men and women who forged the modern era of literature and art in Paris in those two short decades from 1920 until 1939 pursued their dreams and their fantasies. They broke free of the puritanical restrictions of their homelands and celebrated life, art, literature and love in a city that would embellish, enhance and enrich their experiences. The combination of their creativity at that particular moment in time and the spirit that Paris breathed into their lives made them the starting point for all that would come after, something I always remember, honour and celebrate when I pursue my own dreams in Paris…

“What do I mean to do with my youth, my life? Why, I’m going to enjoy myself.” ~ John Glassco in Memoirs Of Montparnasse

“Time it was
And what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you…”

~ “Bookends” by Paul Simon ~

000 McAlmon Glassco TaylorPhoto reproduced from John Glassco’s “Memoirs Of Montparnasse” (Oxford University Press 1970)


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