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This report is taken from PN Review 120, Volume 24 Number 4, March - April 1998.

Letter from Marseilles Eleanor Margolies

You get to cipM, the 'centre international de poésie Marseille'1, by walking through the Panier, the only district of old Marseilles to survive the war, along narrow streets where washing and conversations hang between the houses, where buildingsites, scaffolding and skips alternate with walls and shutters painted in contrasting combinations of rose, mint, ochre and ultramarine. Always a centre of illegal activity and political resistance, it became home to immigrant communities, particularly from North Africa, and to impoverished artists, was left to decay by its landlords for years, and is now being vigorously restored.

In the middle of the Panier is La Vieille Charité, a seventeenth-century hospice designed by Pierre Puget. The large courtyard with its domed chapel and the rooms that open off the surrounding galleries now house a library and bookshop, two museums (of archaeology and art) and the cipM. The poetry centre is a very useful resource: a cool, peaceful reference library containing 20,000 books and magazines, both poetry and critical works, as well as Jacques Roubaud's collection of twentiethcentury English and American experimental poetry. There is also a cinema/auditorium and a gallery, where readings and performances take place.

In June, a new issue of the poetry magazine Sud was launched with a debate: Questions of poetry: from aesthetics to ethics. Though the five poets on the platform - Marie-Claire Bancquart, Gérard Engelbach, Dominique Sampiero, Jean Todrani and André Velter - responded to the provocation, they implied that the question was irrelevant ...


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