A poet in Paris

© P.Lefeuvre
Living in France for five years, Rufo Quintavalle has just published his first book of poetry. This young English writer draws a lot of his inspiration from the diverse neighbourhoods of Paris.

[ Practical ]

- Rufo Quintavalle
- Oystercatcher Press
Make Nothing Happen”.
Price : £ 4. Postage fees : United Kingdom : free, within Europe : £ 1, outside Europe : £ 2.
“It’s a few months after arriving in Paris, in 2005, that I decided to abandon my literary studies and to concentrate on writing”, confides Rufo Quintavelle, a young 31 years old poet. Born in London to Italian and New Zealander parents, he just published his first book of poetry titled “Make Nothing Happen”.
“ I like the fact that I don’t live in an English speaking country. It gives me a certain liberty with my writing and means I am not so caught up in the literary disputes of London or New York or any big Anglophone centre. It helps me to write”.

© P.Lefeuvre
 A source of inspiration
However, his coming to France wasn’t premeditated. It results from one of those coincidences of which life is made up. Raised in London, he began his studies in English literature at Oxford and was continuing them at the University of Iowa when he met Agnès, a French woman who is now his companion. It’s her who encouraged him to make his home in the country of Molière country. “I wasn’t specially attracted by the city itself but over the course of the years I have spent here I have begun to love it. I appreciate the slow pace of life compared to London and I like the size of Paris because if you go for a two hours walk you can cross extremely diverse neighbourhood and see a great deal of the city”.
More than France, Paris thus became one of the sources of inspiration of his poems. Poems that have more a consistence of style than a consistence of subject matter. The twenty-five poems of his book are all, in one way or another, philosophical examinations of the idea of nothingness. “Each one concentrates many, many sources, It often starts with something I read or I find interesting that set off a chain of thoughts. But to give birth to a poem this chain of thoughts must find images along the way. As an example, there is a poem in the collection whose title and structuring idea come from the German philosopher Fichte, but the imagery in the poem comes from the streets of my neighbourhood”.

Frei werden ist der Himmel

The days are staying hot into the night
and the drag queens are fighting in the corner bar;
some flagrantly so or choose flagrantly
to work their way out of it
but hasn't everyone on this street been born
into a life not their own?
It's nothing to be ashamed of, Jesus
was and took thirty years to wriggle out of his;
what is is if you never do
or never make peace with the lie.
At five o'clock the rubbish truck comes,
on Thursdays the dustman sweeps the street.
The city, which endlessly starts again,
belongs to the drag queens in the corner bar.

© P.Lefeuvre
 Wandering the streets
So, Rufo Quintavalle composes more while walking than seating at his desk. “I like to walk, doesn’t matter where. It doesn’t have to be an historical or a beautiful place. It just has to be new, that makes my mind work on a new way and that sometimes produces a poem. I think that wandering the streets and enjoying the sensation of getting a bit lost is conducive to writing”.
So it is no surprise that he cites the residential streets of Paris – notably the surroundings of the place Clichy, where he lives – as among his favourite parts of the city, along with some better known monuments such as the Tuileries gardens near the Carrousel du Louvre and the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution in the Natural History Museum. “It’s nice to be in a place that has been so important in the development of modern thought”.

© P.Lefeuvre
 Influenced by American poets
But if Rufo Quintavalle draws his inspiration from Paris, he also considers that he is quite influenced by a certain number of American poets of the minimalist trend : Robert Creeley, William Carlos William, and A.R Ammons. “For their style”. And Wallace Stevens and Walt Whitman for their sensuality and their vision of what poetry is. “Moreover, I listen to a lot of music, in particular Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits Nick Cave and Bob Dylan, and I suspect that has also an influence on my poetry”. Artists he never misses the chance to see perform when they are in town.


In half-lit rooms a radio tuned to nothing buzzes static,
a burr like the music of history,

which explains nothing
but without which we cannot explain;

it is this sound not silence we wake and sleep to
and by it feel we are the same that wake who slept.

May 14, 2009
Pascal Lefeuvre