Personal Blog # 1: How to Paint a Portrait of a Bird

There are certain  pieces that I immensely enjoy rereading, especially in a snowy and raging weather like the past couple of days in Washington DC. Somehow, the almost scary lifelessness of the landscape outside make me sweep the dust off long forgotten books that otherwise my hectic routine would not allow me to do on a regular day. Maybe I’m not the only one finding inspiration in this weather, but I will tell you about the words that  affect me personally. I will mention some titles and quotes and I hope that I will make you discover the moving work of a great poet.

Jaques Prevert, and in particular, his “How to Paint a Portrait of a Bird” book which I was holding again today. No, no. .., it’s not a how-to book which has ironically caused disappointment for some who thought they would learn how to sketch feathers. It’s emotional and deep, but at the same time very simply and ingenuously written poetry.

First, a little about Jaques Prevert. Born on February. 4, 1900 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France and died April 11, 1977 Omonville-la-Petite, he was a poet and screenwriter, wrote lyrics for many classic songs, including Autumn Leaves. He actively participated in the surrealist movement.

The book “How to Paint a Portrait of a Bird” borrows its name from the first poem in it.  The poem does in fact address a young artist and instructs him how to draw a bird, but at a second glance it reminds me of a life journey and it teaches us to be patient if we don’t  get what we want right away.

Sometimes the bird comes quickly

but he can just as well spend long years

before deciding

Don’t get discouraged

wait

wait years if necessary

the swiftness or slowness of the coming

of the bird having no rapport

with the success of the picture”

What strikes me the most as I flip the pages is his simple, but powerful way of speaking about life and love which are the essence of this wonderful compilation. Here is one of my favorite “Paris at Night” which says a lot by not saying much.

Three matches one by one struck in the night
The first to see your face in its entirety
The second to see your eyes
The last to see your mouth
And the darkness all around to remind me of all these.

In brief, this is Jacques Prevert; writes as he speaks, no fancy words or complicated thoughts. Clarity, clean lines and the ability to make us (at least me) appreciate more the simple things in our lives.  I can talk more about him and his work but I’ll let you start with these poems first. Don’t forget to add Debussy’s Claire de Lune .

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