BRLSI member Martin Sturge reading Occitan verse
July 14th is Bastille day, and BRLSI’s Uni-verse lunchtime international poetry group naturally had a French theme, but with a twist. As well as French verse, there was poetry in Occitan (pronounced ‘Oxi-tan’), a language still spoken in southern France (as well as northern Italy and Spain), despite having been driven fairly ruthlessly from French public life by les Nordistes. The Occitan verse came courtesy of BRLSI member Martin Sturge, who read them along with his own translations.
The poems, intermixed with French verse, spanned centuries as well as languages, beginning with one by Guillaume le Troubadour (more formally Duke William IX of Aquitaine, 1071-1127), and ending with a 2003 Occitan poem by Aurelia Lassaque. In his preamble Martin explained that he had first heard Occitan spoken by rural people in southwest France when he went there in the 1960s; now we heard this unfamiliar Romance language, boasting 600,000 words, spoken in its strange sounds reminiscent, perhaps, of Catalan. Martin was helped by Occitan scholar James Thomas, who read some of the verse.
Click here to see Martin Sturge read Guillaume le Troubadour’s poem (with text in Occitan and English), and click here to see Martin read Aurelia Lassaque’s poem Solesa. (Note – video pages open in a new browser window)
After the break there was a well-supported open mic session (mostly) on a French theme, with readings by Uni-verse convenor Nikki Bennet (a rather moving love poem of her own in mixed English and French), BRLSI Poetry Group convenor Janet Cunliffe-Jones with her poem Paris in April, Corsham poet Linda Snell on dipthongs, Caroline Heaton with a poem inspired by a painting by Pierrre Bonnard and Duncan McGibbon with readings from Ezra Pound’s Cantos. There were also readings by James Thomas and Violette Aubry (a genuine French citizen!).
Uni-verse is now on its summer break, but returns on Wednesday September 8th (at 1pm) with Parvin Loloi on The Influence of Persian Poetry.