Friday, 16 December 2011

Shakespeare's Got Company

iPhone Photo Chronicles
~ Shakespeare's Got Company ~

BONUS: For Street Photography Fans!

I won't pretend that I knew him well, or that I was his friend; I wasn't. But I knew him.

I doubt that he knew me. I won't even try to scrape some sort of second-hand glory by claiming that I spent days and nights ensconsed in the upstairs library, secreted between the mustering tomes, slaving away at 'my Paris novel'; I didn't.

But I've read my poems in that tiny book-lined room, oozing history; I used to run a street photography evening there; and I don't know how many times I've actually slipped through that door.

Hell, I even wrote a poem called, in one of my less inspired moments, "Shakespeare & Co."

I've photographed most of the nooks and crannies that made this place legendary and always welcoming. You could stay there for hours. Even days. And nights. Many did. Which contributed to the legend. The legend of Shakespeare and Company. The legacy of George.

He passed away yesterday, George Whitman did. He of the musketeerial facial hair in his younger days; he of the black silk pyjamas in his latter.

He of the simple deal for struggling writers and poets from around the world: you help out in the shop, and I'll bed you in books and banter. He held a strange power over people.

He of the wall of messages, hundreds of tattered pages from the world's four corners, each and every one expressing their appreciation and, sometimes, love for George.

I interviewed his daughter, Sylvia, a few years ago. Sylvia, the charming young lady who rediscovered her father after many years as a stranger. Sylvia who now runs, and has regenerated Paris' most wonderful bookworm's paradise. And because in my interviews people tell me things, Sylvia told me about George. Stories about her dad.

When Sylvia read my interview she asked me not to publish it. Out of respect for her father. I didn't ask her if I could edit it because my interviews become entities once finished, flaws and all, and I'm not keen on tampering with them.

Not that she said one bad thing about him. It was the most beautiful, human interview I've ever done. As someone who has also 'lost' a daughter, I wasn't insensitive to the situation. But the time wasn't right. I'm not even sure if I still have it, as I've got this annoying habit of leaving computers and expensive cameras in places I really shouldn't. But I might.

If I find that interview I'll show it to her again and see if she feels it's worth sharing yet. But if not that's ok. In the meantime I'll leave you this poem from a period I was poeticising a lot. Maybe you'll see what I mean. And if you've ever been to this place, maybe you'll feel it too.

(Shhh, listen... if you look carefully you can hear George waving...)

Shakespeare & Co.

Get ye down to Shakespeare & Co. my son,
He said, with a smile, and a nod, and a gun;
Just bring a few lines, dipped in rainbow allure,
And if they're any good, we'll tell you, to be sure.

So with hand all a tremble I set pen in place,
A few tattered strands of my life for to trace;
Will they understand me? will they feel? will they know?
If I get myself down, to Shakespeare & Co.

Can I tell them about the time I was five
When… I killed a hamster to prove I was alive?
Can I trouble them there, will they wince? will they go?
If I drag myself down to Shakespeare & Co.

Or the time I let my sly ambitions run wild;
The result? One ex-wife, one ex-friend, one ex-child.
Should I trust them with this, should I let them all in,
To my palace of murkiness, misery, gin?

Must I tell them I get drunk three days out of two?
Would that be worthy of Shakespeare & Co. for you?
Where brave Latin bitches, brittle with wit
Battle wild Irish witches who whimper and spit.

Could I fit myself in there, squeeze into some crack,
Where the people won't notice the skills, that I lack?
So I never did find any rainbow allure,
Just a few scribbled words, with an intention, pure.

But I did get myself down to Shakespeare & Co.,
To hear others recite, and to just have a go,
`Tween the books and the dust and people I don't know…
I'd like to thank you. Thank you, Shakespeare & Co.

Copyright 2003 Sab Will

© 2011
Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

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