Paris: a city long admired and praised for its rich history, cultural prowess, and high quality baguettes, often identified and represented by its famous historical and cultural landmark-symbols like the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, etc. that are plainly “Paris.” While its landmarks rightly deserve recognition and esteem, I’d argue they do not provide a comprehensive, holistic picture of a city whose boundaries stretch beyond its illustrious center.
William Hart, Los Angeles based poem and fiction author, would say the same. Via his collection of 40 contemporary haiku, appropriately titled “Paris,” Hart seeks to capture the city’s essence through ordinary observations that’d otherwise go unnoticed, but tell a broader, more expansive story of the city’s quirks and quintessential qualities.
Told from the perspective of an observant and attentive tourist, “Paris” leads the reader on a stroll through the city – from the Seine, to Napoleon’s tomb, to Rue Pigalle and onward, while commenting on the little things that are just as “Parisian” as the Eiffel, like a “sunlit planter” or “two dozing cats ring[ing] a tree.” Permeated by Hart’s obvious love and ardor for the city, the haiku are written and illustrated not only with purpose, but with affection, tenderness, and warmth, granting readers a pleasurable and satisfying “tour.”
The final haiku bids goodbye and goodnight with a picture of soft glowing light and scattered rays from the sun and from a complex’s windows, pulsing to the heartbeat of a city that is for many a tourist stop, but to others – home.
Though I do hope to experience Paris myself one day – whether as a tourist or resident, for now, I’m glad to admire it via Hart and other stories.