If you are a lover of poetry, then the next time you are in Paris you should seek out a unique and precious venue, where for the time of your visit you feel as if you are stepping outside of time.
Club des Poètes can be found at 30, rue de Bourgogne 75007 in the VIIth Arrondissment and it is at night that this restaurant/bar comes to life. Only a short walk from the National Aessembly, Jean-Pierre Rosnay and his wife Marcelle welcome poetry lovers for a drink or dinner. There are even a few foreign enthusiasts who come regularly without speaking a word of French, but nevertheless take delight in the intimate atmosphere and the sonority of the poems declaimed there.
Created in 1961 in order to ‘render poetry contagious and inevitable’ because it is ‘the anti-pollutant of mental space, the counterweight and antidote to an existence that tends to turn us all into robots’, the Club de Poètes has received visits from many renowned poets such as Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz, and Ma Desheng.
The place itself is intriguing: the massive wooden door with its small wrought iron opening, like in the Middle Ages, forcing any latecomers who show up after the poetry sessions have begun to undergo inspection, sets s certain tone. You can dine here quite reasonably on typically French food. The poetry lovers, most of them regulars, arrive one by one. Monsieur Rosnay Jr & his wife Yasmine (who are gradually taking over the reins of the establishment) make the atmosphere most familial. Just as in your own home, or almost, there are books scattered around the room and even in the loo. Towards 10pm, when the poetry sessions begin, Monsieur Rosnay Sr begins the evenings recitals: classic poems, modern poems, or even one he has composed. Then there is a brief intermission, to finish dessert, before things start up again. The lights go down, then back on for a moment, and for nearly two hours family members, regulars, and more occasional customers take turns in the spotlight, publicly declaiming a poem of their choice. If the diction varies according to the performer, the pleasure of listening is always present, and the atmosphere wonderful, alternatively hushed, and then enthused.
In order to make the visit truly memorable, make the effort to learn a poem and dare yourself to recite it aloud. The experience will remain with you for a lifetime.